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Saint-Maurice, Abbey of


Belonging to canons regular of st. augustine, in Valais canton, Switzerland, on the Rhone River. It is an abbey nullius dioceseos with 3,980 Catholics, six parishes, 112 religious priests, 135 monks in one abbey and 79 women in seven convents (1964); and occupies 37 square miles. As Acaunum (French Agaune), capital of the Nantuates, Saint-Maurice became important when the relics of St. Maurice and the other martyrs of the theban legion were translated to a basilica built by St. Theodore (380391), first bishop of Valais in Octodurus (Martigny). In honor of the martyrs, King St. sigismund of burgundy in 515 founded an abbey that replaced secular clergy who had been there from the 4th century, richly endowing it with lands from Lyons to Aosta. As a pilgrimage center known for its perpetual psalmody (Laus perennis ) and located on the road over the Great St. Bernard Alpine pass, Saint-Maurice gained some fame. The monks became secular canons c. 830, and the abbots began to serve as bishops of Sion. Rudolph I of Burgundy, who was crowned at Saint-Maurice in 888, disposed of the lands; but Rudolph III restored the abbey to secular canons in 1018, and the Salian Conrad I bestowed it on the Savoyan dynasty in 1034. Count Amadeus III (d.1148) reformed the cloister, giving it to Augustinian canons in 1128 and restoring its goods in 1147 while the House of Savoy filled the office of provost. In 1196 the abbots gained pontificalia rights, and from 1150 to 1798 they were lords of the wine-growing area in the neighbor-hood. In 1782 the king of Sardinia made them counts. The Helvetic government secularized the abbey after the Napoleonic invasion, but the art treasures, with Carolingian items, were safeguarded and restored to the abbey when it reopened in 1814. In 1840 the abbot became titular bishop of Bethlehem. Saint-Maurice's territorial dispute with the bishops of Sion was settled in 1933. The abbey church, built in 1627, was made a minor basilica and restored in 1948. The abbey school dates from 1806.

Bibliography: m. besson, Monasterium Acaunense (Fribourg 1913). l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 193539) 2:280506. l. dupontlachenal, Les Abbés de St-Maurice (St-Maurice 1929); in Dictionnaire biographique et historique de la Suisse, 8 v. (Neuchâtel 192134) 5:679682, with list of abbots 5151914. j. m. theurillat, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 9:163164. Annuario Pontificio (1964) 730.

[a. maissen]

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