Saint Maurus

For other uses, see Saint Maurus (disambiguation).
Saint Maurus, O.S.B.

St. Benedict orders St. Maurus to the rescue of St. Placid
by Friar Filippo Lippi, O.Carm. (ca.1445).
Born January 1, 512
Died January 15, 584
not for sure
Feast after 1969: November 22
Attributes crutch; weighing scale; young man in the garb of a monk, holding an abbot's cross and a spade.
Patronage cripples; invoked against rheumatism, epilepsy, gout, hoarseness, cold; Azores; charcoal burners; cobblers; coppersmiths; shoemakers

Saint Maurus, O.S.B. (or Maur), was the first disciple of St. Benedict of Nursia (512-584). He is mentioned in St. Gregory the Great's biography of the latter as the first oblate; offered to the monastery by his noble Roman parents as a young boy to be brought up in the monastic life. Four stories involving Maurus recounted by Gregory formed a pattern for the ideal formation of a Benedictine monk. The most famous of these involved St. Maurus's rescue of Saint Placidus, a younger boy offered to St. Benedict at the same time as St. Maurus. The incident has been reproduced in many medieval and Renaissance paintings.

Saints Maurus and Placidus are venerated together on 5 October.[1]

The Legendary Life of St. Maurus

A long Life of St. Maurus appeared in the late 9th century, supposedly composed by one of St. Maurus's 6th-century contemporaries. According to this account, the bishop of Le Mans, in western France, sent a delegation asking Benedict for a group of monks to travel from Benedict's new abbey of Monte Cassino to establish monastic life in France according to the Rule of St. Benedict. The Life recounts the long journey of St. Maurus and his companions from Italy to France, accompanied by many adventures and miracles as St. Maurus is transformed from the youthful disciple of Benedict into a powerful, miracle-working holy man in his own right. According to this account, after the great pilgrimage to Francia, St. Maurus founded Glanfeuil Abbey as the first Benedictine monastery in Gaul. It was located on the south bank of the Loire river, a few miles east of Angers. The nave of its thirteenth-century church and some vineyards remain today (according to tradition, the chenin grape was first cultivated at this monastery.)

Scholars now believe that this Life of Maurus is a forgery by the late-9th-century abbot of Glanfeuil, Odo. It was composed, as were many such saints' lives in Carolingian France, to popularize local saints' cults. The bones of St. Maurus were 'discovered' at Glanfeuil by one of Abbot Odo's immediate predecessors, Abbot Gauzlin, in 845. Gauzlin likely invented or at least strongly promoted the cult of Benedict's disciple, taking advantage of Glanfeuil's proximity to two famous and prosperous Benedictine culture centers of the Loire region: the cult of St. Benedict's bones at Fleury and that of St. Scholastica's relics at Le Mans.

In 862, Odo and the monks of Glanfeuil were obliged to flee to Paris in the face of Vikings maurauding along the Loire. There the cult of St. Maurus was revived at the suburban Parisian abbey of Saint-Pierre-des-Fossés, later renamed Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. The cult of St. Maurus slowly spread to monasteries throughout France and by the 11th century had been adopted by Monte Cassino in Italy, along with a revived cult of St. Placidus (the fellow pupil of St Benedict at Monte Cassino along with St Maurus, according to Pope Gregory the Great's Life of St. Benedict). By the late Middle Ages, the cult of St. Maurus, often associated with that St. Placidus, had spread to all Benedictine monasteries.

The Congregation of St. Maur took its name from him.

In the 18th century, after the decline of the abbey of Fosses, the cult of St. Maurus was moved to the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés where it remained a popular center until the relics were dispersed by a Parisian mob during the French Revolution. St. Maurus is still venerated by Benedictine congregations today, many monks adopting his name and dedicating monasteries to his patronage.

In art, he is depicted as a young man in the garb of a monk, usually holding an abbot's cross or sometimes with a spade (an allusion to the monastery of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, literally "Saint Maurus of the Ditches").

Another of St. Maurus' attributes is a crutch, in reference to his patronage of cripples. He was invoked especially against fever, and also against rheumatism, epilepsy, and gout. He is also sometimes depicted with a scale, a reference to the implement used to measure a monk's daily ration of bread, given to him by Benedict when he left Montecassino for France. The monks of Fossés near Paris (whence the community of Glanfeuil had fled from the Vikings in 868) exhibited this implement throughout the Middle Ages.


  1. Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)


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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Maurus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 

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