Key to Umbria: Spoleto

SS Felix and Maurus (16th June)

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St Maurus kills a dragon as St Felix prays beside angels that protect him

Relief (12th century) on the facade of SS Felice di Narco

The earliest known version of the legend of these saints was contained in the Leggendari del Duomo.   This “original” has been lost, but Eugenio Susi (referenced below) has demonstrated that another version (ca. 1600) by the Benedictine abbot Costantino Caetani, which survives in the Biblioteca Alessandrina, Rome (BHL 5791m), was closely based on it. 

This seems to be the starting point for the Legend of the 300 SyriansIt records that St Maurus belonged to a congregation of some 300 Christians in Cesarea and Laodicea (in modern Turkey).  Their leader, St Carpophorus exhorted them to leave their goods and their families and to travel to Europe in search of martyrdom.  There is no indication in this version of the legend as to the time at which the events took place. 

The legend recounts that St Maurus was initially reluctant to leave his wife Eufrosina and his young son St Felix.  However, after further persuasion from St Carpophorus, he finally joined the party, taking St Felix and a nurse with him but leaving Eufrosina behind.  The 300 emigrants embarked in two ships that were driven to Italy by a storm.  Having landed, SS Maurus and Felix travelled to a place “in partibus Spoleti, in loco qui dictur Narcus, iuxta fluvium” (in the region of Spoleto , in a place called Narco, near the river), where they established a hermitage.  At the request of local people, St Maurus killed a dragon that was terrorising the valley. 

Other miracles followed: among them, the young St Felix restored to life the young son of a widow.  When St Felix and his nurse died soon after, St Maurus buried them beside the river and miracles were reported at their tomb. 

According to local tradition, St Maurus built a church here on what became the site of the Abbazia di SS Felice di Narco.

  1. The crypt of this church contains an ancient sarcophagus that is said to hold the remains of SS Felix and Maurus. 

  2. The sculpted frieze beneath the rose window in the façade of the church depicts:

  3. St Maurus killing a dragon as St Felix prays beside angels that protect him (illustrated above): and

  4. St Felix reviving the dead son of a poor widow. 

Read more:

E. Susi, “La ‘Vita Beati Mauri Syri Abbatis et Felicis eius Filii apud Vallem Narci Prope Naris Ripam’ del Codice Alessandrino 89”, Hagiographica, 2 (1995) 93-136

BHL 5791 is reproduced at pp 130-6

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