The Patron Saints of our Abbey

Monastic coat of arms – The Triple Mountain

Since its founding in 741 (according to baroque tradition 731) the Danube Monastery of Altach (for which the preferred interpretation was “ancient waters” and later became Niederaltaich) has been known as the monasterium sancti Mauritii, the Monastery of St. Mauritius.

The Patron Saint of the Byzantine Church of our Abbey and the second patron saint of the Abbey is the holy bishop St. Nicholas of Myra.

St. Mauritius and his Companions

St. Mauritius from the pulpit of the Basilica

St. Mauritius, according to tradition, was the leader of the Theban Legion, which consisted of Christians from the region of Thebes in Egypt. They were stationed in Agaunum (today St. Moritz in the Swiss Canton of Wallis). Because they refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and take part in the persecution of Christians, Maximianus, the co-regent of Caesar Diocletian, had every tenth man executed (Diocletian was away in Octodurum (today Martigny). When the legion remained steadfast, he repeated the process until all the soldiers, as well as the officers Candidus, Innocentius, Exuperius, Constantinus and Vitalis had met with death as martyrs without resistance.

St. Nicholas, the Holy Bishop of Myra

Icon of St. Nicholas in Niederaltaich

The Holy Bishop Nicholas of Myra is also called “the Saint of undivided Christianity” (Lothar Heiser). He lived in the last quarter of the third century and in the first half of the fourth in Lycia (today Demre in Southwest Turkey). In the Eastern Churches he is known as a worker of miracles and helper in need and is venerated with great devotion. For centuries in the West he was known as the greatest of the Helpers in Need. His significance transcends the division between the Eastern and the Western Church.

His historical person is submerged by a cycle of legends that are every bit as poetic as deeply meaningful. These legends are not merely literary fiction. In their vivid scenes they reflect the immortal image of the holy bishop, who hastens to help in all crises of body and soul whenever he is called upon.

In Niederaltaich the Altar Feastday of St.Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th, the day of his death (326, 345, 351 or 365). The Altar Feastday of the smaller Byzantine Chapel is celebrated on May 9th, the day the relics of St. Nicholas were translated to Bari, Italy.