Switzerland: The treasure of the Abbey of Saint-Maurice to be displayed in the Louvre
For the 1500th anniversary of Saint-Maurice (Valais), founded in 515 in the Rhone valley, a jubilee year will solemnly begin on September 22, 2014, and come to an end on September 22, 2015. In preparation, several objects from the Treasury of the Abbey of Saint-Maurice will be displayed in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on March 1st and 2nd; the Louvre Museum will then receive the major pieces of this Valaisan monastery’s Treasury from March 14 to June 16, 2014.
The Abbey of Saint-Maurice of Agaune was founded in 515 by the Burgundian prince Sigismond, who was converted from Arianism to Catholicism by St. Avit, Bishop of Vienna, and it was first a monastery of monks; it was solemnly inaugurated on September 22, 515. Before the monastic foundation, a basilica had been raised to receive the remains of the martyrs of the Theban legion and their leader, Maurice, who died for their faith at the gorge of Agaune under the reign of Diocletian and Maximian (285-291). The first Abbot of the new institution, Hymnemode, from Grigny, to the southwest of Lyon, died at the beginning of the year 516. His successor, Abbot Ambrose (516-520), from monastery of Ile-Barbe, in the Lyon region, was charged with building a new basilica and organizing a perpetual psalmody, day and night; this laus perennis would be the great characteristic of the monastery of Agaune, to such an extent that when it was later instituted in other Gallic monasteries, they were always careful to note that it was in imitation of Agaune: ad instar Agaunensium.
During the Carolingian period, in the 9th century, the monks were replaced by clerics or canons, who probably lived according to the Rule fixed in 817 by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle; this Rule was inspired by rules decreed by St. Chrodegang, Bishop of Metz from 742 to 766, for his cathedral’s Chapter.
Ever since the first centuries after its foundation, the Abbey of Saint-Maurice has given special care to its Treasury, preserving it from fires, pillage and political tempests. This ensemble of pieces of unique craftsmanship and history bears witness to the attachment of prestigious pilgrims to the Abbey, including kings and officials of the Middle Ages, who came to pray over the relics of St. Maurice and his companions from Egypt.
The exposition entitled “The Treasury of the Abbey of Saint-Maurice of Agaune” will be in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre museum and will retrace the history of the Abbey and of its Treasury, evoking Agaune’s Roman past and its Christianization. Masterpieces of Merovingian and Carolingian goldsmithery such as the magnificent St. Martin’s vase made of sard, the reliquary coffer of the priest Teuderic or “Charlemagne’s” ewer, unequalled in France, celebrate the memory of St. Maurice. St. Maurice and his companions were venerated by the house of Savoy, as the relic of the head of St. Candide testifies, as well as by St. Louis. Reliquaries, precious fabrics, manuscripts and archives evoke the spiritual riches of a community that, with its 1500 years on the territory, is the oldest in the Western world.
Practical information for the exposition at the Louvre:
Open every day except Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ; night visits Wednesday and Friday until 9:45 p.m.
Price with entry to the museum: 12€
(sources: apic/archives saint-maurice/Louvre – DICI no.291 dated February 28, 2014)