Saint Maurus of Parentium: The Iconography

NOVEMBER 21

Parentium is the city now known as Poreč, in Croatia. Local tradition in Poreč has it that the city's first bishop was a St. Maurus, and modern scholars are willing to grant that a Maurus was among the first. Until 1580 a Passion of St. Maurus was read in the cathedral every November 21, but it presented the saint as an African of the 3rd century who went to Rome on pilgrimage and had the ill fortune to be there during the persecution of 284. Planning to leave the city, he was advised in a dream that Jesus wanted him to stay in Rome and be martyred. He did, and he was. Some sailors tried to rescue his body and hide it in a ship, but the Prefect found them out and they fled. In the legend read in the cathedral the ship sailed by itself to Poreč, where the Christians placed the body in their church. This last detail, however, is not in the source from which the legend was drawn.1

PORTRAITS

I have encountered only two images of this St. Maurus, both in the apse of the Euphrasian Basilica, the cathedral church of Poreč: The saint is in a 13th-century tondo (see above) and in a 6th-century group portrait directly above the altar (see at right). The tondo's Maurus has a hand cross with two cross-bars; the one above the altar is dressed as a Byzantine courtier of the early centuries and offers a martyr's crown to the Virgin and Child. The martyr's crown indicates that he was already considered a martyr by the 6th century and may or may not have been identified with the Maurus who died in Rome.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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SHOWN ABOVE

A tondo of St. Maurus in the apse of the Euphrasian Basilica in Poreč. See description page.

St. Maurus and other martyrs offer their crowns to the Virgin and Child – See description page

NAMES

  • Poreč is the modern-day Croatian name for the city known in antiquity as Parentium.

ALSO SEE

NOTES

1 The legend's source is the 9th-century Martyrology of Rabanus Maurus. It and the legend are published in Deperis, 30-34.