- 1 The Abbey of Saint-Maurice
- 2 Weather
- 3 Access
- 4 The visit
- 5 Fees
- 6 The history of the abbey
- 7 Vidéo
- 8 Facebook
- 9 Related attractions
The Abbey of Saint-Maurice
Founded in 515, the Abbey of Saint-Maurice is a religious community with more than 1500 years of history and is the oldest Christian building in the West continuously inhabited. It is particularly known for its magnificent treasure and its basilica.
Paid parking close to the abbey.
The paid visit to the abbey is done with an audioguide according to a circuit whose main points are listed below.
Reception and shop
A building just next to the entrance to the basilica serves as a ticket office and shop selling religious objects and books.
The basilica of Saint-Maurice Abbey has the following points of interest:
- Main door
- Jubilee Gate
- Martyr’s Chapel
- Chapel of the Abbots
- Modern Baptistery
- Great Organ
- Stained glass windows
The audiovisual room shows, in an old religious building, a film retracing the history of the abbey.
The archaeological site of Martolet is located between the abbey and the rock face and covered by a translucent wall. It is on this site that several churches have been built over the centuries. The first church is built at the end of the 4th century on a site already occupied by Roman burial sites in memory of the Theban martyrs.
The various objects that make up the treasure of the Abbey of Saint-Maurice come from the donations of pilgrims who came to pay homage to the Theban martyrs. In 1800, the treasure was hidden among the population to avoid its looting by Napoleon and in 2014, the treasure was exhibited at the Louvre in Paris for 2 months for the abbey’s 1500th anniversary.
cloister and old baptistery
The cloister and the ancient stone baptistery.
The bell tower of the Basilica of St. Maurice is not accessible to visitors.
The prices including the audioguide in French, German, Italian and English are as follows:
- Adults: CHF 15.00
- AHV/students: CHF 13.00
- Children (6-16 years old): CHF 9.00
The history of the abbey
The Torpille team shows below some key dates in the history of the abbey.
- Around 300: Massacre of the Theban Legion and death of Mauritius. See further on.
- Around 320: Authorization of Christianity in the Roman Empire
- Around 380: Construction of the first church in memory of the Theban martyrs.
- Around 380: Christianity was chosen as the only religion of the Roman Empire.
- 476: Fall of the Western Roman Empire, invasion of French-speaking Switzerland by the Burgundians.
- 515: Creation of the abbey by King Burgonde Sigismund.
- End of the 15th century. The Valais captured Saint-Maurice at the expense of Savoy.
- 1536: Bern invades the Savoy-held Pays de Vaud. The Protestant Reformation brought by Bern stops a few metres from the abbey on the other side of the Rhône.
- 1800: The abbey’s treasure is hidden during Napoleon’s passage.
- Early 19th century: Napoleonic France annexes the Valais under the name of Simplon department
- 1814: Integration of the Valais into Switzerland.
The name of the city of Saint-Maurice originates from a very ancient event dating back to the time of the Roman Empire. In the 3rd century, Roman troops are dispatched to the Martigny region, called the Claudii Vallensium Forum, to prevent the cult of Christianity, which had already spread well within the Empire at that time. Some of the Roman legionaries were Copts of Thebes (now Luxor), i. e. Christians living in southern Egypt today. The latter, under the command of Mauritius, refused to persecute the Christian inhabitants and were massacred by other Roman troops, an event known as the massacre of the Theban Legion.
In 380, a century later, a sanctuary in the form of a church was founded on the site of the massacre in Agaune, which then took the name of Saint-Maurice, and the famous abbey was created in 515. Today, hundreds of religious buildings in Europe are dedicated to Saint-Maurice
It should be noted that the events related to the Theban Legion massacre seem to be more of a legend because historical validations are lacking to confirm this event. For example, there is no mention in the historical documents of the stationing of Roman troops in Saint-Maurice at the time of the massacre.
La tête de Maure
Mauritius had a black skin colour because it came from a Nubian tribe in southern Egypt. The famous Moorish head which adorns some flags, could have its origin in Mauritius even if there is no evidence. The most famous flag with a Moorish head is that of Corsica. In French-speaking Switzerland, it is present on the flag of Payerne in the “Broye vaudoise”.
La Via Francigena
La Via Francigena est un voie qui relie l’Angleterre à Rome et notamment parcourue par Sigéric, archevêque de Cantorbéry, en 990 qui en fait une description. Le trajet qui passe par Saint-Maurice compte 1’700 kilomètres et est fait en 80 jours. Les principales villes parcourues sont les suivantes:
- Canterbury (Departure)
- Great-Saint-Bernard pass
- Rome (Arrival)
The travel in French-speaking Switzerland is 215 kilometres and passes through the following cities from the French Jura to the Italian Alps:
- Chillon Castle
- Great-Saint-Bernard Hospice
A video on the 1500 years of the abbey.