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Friday, April 6, 2018

Turin-Paris: The marvels of Africa

Saint Maurice
by M. Grünewald

The religious military Order of Saint Maurice and Saint Lazarus, as its double patronymic suggests, was created by merging two previous organizations. The later took its name from 'some' Lazarus, i.e. Jesus Christ's friend and/or the beggar mentioned in Luke, ch. 16. He was associated with medicine, see the Italian word lazzaretto indicating a leper hospital. In fact the Order, founded in the 11th century, took care of lepers in the Holy Land. The Order of Saint Maurice was more recent, 1434, founded by the Savoys after the name of a presumed martyr of the third century AD, a Roman commander from Africa. After a beginning as a monastic place, the Order directed its efforts against the "enemies of Christianity." In 1572 the two organizations, however different, were united by Pope Gregorius XIII, the Order of Saint Lazarus having been in decadence for a long time. Duke Charles Emmanuel (Carlo Emanuele I) of Savoy also owned the "sword of Saint Maurice."

Giambattista Marino recapitulates the whole story with 'embellishments,' e.g. making the Savoys' foundation older than it was. Titus' war enterprise of the year 70 AD, mentioned in the passage below, should have been the subject of a long poem to be written by Marino, Gerusalemme distrutta (Jerusalem Destroyed), but it never went farther than few sections. As for Egypt, thanks to the rediscovery of the ancient Greek authors in the Renaissance, its picture had become much richer in details than it was in the Middle Ages, when the Bible had basically been the only source. Nowadays the Egyptian Museum in Turin, inaugurated in 1824, is among the top archeological institutions worldwide.

Dicerie sacre, III. Il cielo, 72-73
Faith about all this is lent us by that venerable and frightful sword, much richer in glories than adorned with gems, which—together with the other remains of his sacred body, retrieved by our Duke's piety—he wanted us to inherit. A sword about which I will not say that, in our sky, it is a threatening comet of ill omen against our enemies, like the one that is famed to have appeared over the city of Jerusalem in Titus' times; I will rather say that it is the sword of Orion, that on the helmsmen of Infidelity [i.e. Muslim pirates and/or Protestant Church leaders] pours bloody rains and lethal storms; unless we say that it is the angelic sword, burning with zeal and shaken by this heavenly Cherub [the Duke], the keeper of our heavenly vault, the defender of our earthly paradise.
O Egypt, do not boast about the long series of your Ptolemies and Pharaohs, legislators and kings; not about your famous schools and much celebrated museums of Greece, the fountains of ancient philosophy; not about Isis, Anubis, and Amon, such profane idols and lying oracles; not about the superb simulacrum of the Sphinx of Amasis [in Giza], a miracle of the chisel; not about the famous labyrinth [Karnak and Luxor?] as extended as seven royal palaces; not about the precious preservation of mummies, kept incorrupt by bitumen and tar . . .

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