Saint Maurice was brought up in the region of Thebes (Luxor -- Egypt) and became a soldier in the Roman army. He was gradually promoted until he became the leader of the Theban legion, formed of 6600 soldires. This legion was sent, upon the order of the Emperoe Maximianos (286-305), to resist the tribes' attacks at the western borders of the Roman Empire. The Theban legion settled down all along the western borders from Germany to Italy, near Lausanne in Switzerland. The Roman Emperor and his soldiers worshipped and offered to their idols before they engaged in battles. Saint Maurice and his soldiers were asked to share in this action, but they refused and declared their faith in Jesus Christ. The leader Maurice also sent a letter to the Emperor in the name of all members of the legion declairing their faith in Christ. The Emperor was disappointed and gave orders to torture one tenth of the members of the legion, in order to terrify the rest. However, the soldiers accepted torture declaring in public their faith in Christ. The Emperor then ordered the killing of all of them. All members of the legion, headed by Saint Maurice, were martyred. The date of his martyrdom is 25th of the Coptic month Toot.
Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion in the Coptic Tradition
There is no mentioning in the Coptic Synxarium of these saints, however, there is a number of new churches and altars that are erected in 20th. century and beyond. For example, there is a church of St. Maurice and St. Verena in the Diocese of Public Services in Egypt. There is also an altar consecrated in the name of saint Maurice in the Church of the Virgin Mary and Saint Athanasius in Mississauga, Canada. There is an icon depicting the martyrdom of Saint Maurice in Saint Mary’s Coptic Orthodox church in Cambridge, Canada. And in California there is a church consecrated to St. Verena.
In 1991, The Christian world celebrated the seventeenth centennial of the martyrdom of these saints. H.H. Pope Shenouda delegated His Grace Bishop Serapion to represent the Coptic Church in these celebrations. On that occasion parts of the relics of Saint Maurice, St. Cassius, and St. Florentius were returned to the Coptic Church.
May his prayers be with us. Ame