St. Maurice comes to Magdeburg (ca. 1013)

The cult of St. Maurice proved popular among German rulers, most notably the tenth-century Holy Roman Emperor Otto I. He named Maurice the patron saint of the Empire and protector of Magdeburg, the base for his missionary work to the east. As Thietmar, Bishop of Merseburg, described in his Chronicon (ca. 1013), in 961 Otto I had the saint’s remains brought to Magdeburg, along with other relics, treasure, and the bodies of his own relatives. They were interred with great ceremony in the cathedral, and in later years St. Maurice miraculously defended the church against those who wished to plunder the treasure kept there.

Jeff Bowersox


The emperor had precious marble, gold, and gems brought to Magdeburg. And he ordered that relics of saints should be enclosed in all of the columns. He had the body of Count Christian, as well as those of others among his familiars, interred next to the same church in which, while he still lived, he wished to have a burial place prepared for himself. In the year 961 of the Incarnation and in the twenty-fifth year of his reign, in the presence of all of the nobility, on the vigil of Christmas, the body of St. Maurice was conveyed to him at Regensburg along with the bodies of some of the saint’s companions and portions of other saints. Having been sent to Magdeburg, these relics were received with great honor by a gathering of the entire populace of the city and of their fellow countrymen. They are still venerated there, to the salvation of the homeland.

Ekkehard, called ‘the Red’, was overseer of the aforementioned church and, being a grammarian by profession, head of the school. One day, he wanted to examine the great golden altar, which is encrusted with gems and amber, to see if anything was missing from it. Suddenly, it fell over on him. Following this incident, which left him crippled, he surrendered the wealth that he had long been gathering to the provost, Walthard, to be distributed generously. After a few days, on 4 September, he released his faithful spirit. I do not wish to accuse him of anything, but I know this for certain; if anyone offends St. Maurice he should be aware of the imminent danger. On a particularly dark night, at the instigation of the Devil, a certain young man wanted to plunder his treasury. Already at the entrance, however, he was seized by fear and wanted to desist, as he himself subsequently recalled, but he heard a voice urging him to proceed with his audacious deed. The wretch had barely seized a crown when he was captured and placed upon the wheel, after having his bones broken.

Source: David A. Warner, Ottonian Germany: The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 104, 197. © David A. Warner

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