A Black Saint Was Featured On An Important German Drinking Utensil

Written by PlayBack

By Marissa Johnson

The Root partners with Harvard’s Hutchinson center for African and Research to present a weekly image to make us reflect and educate us on the past.

One image was of a drinking horn.

What was so special about this drinking horn? It featured a saint.

This horn has its origins in the Germanic states. The horn was used for drinking. Protestants who believed such objects were idolatry and were thus sinful likely destroyed the horn. However, we have to make do with a depiction of the horn.

So who was this black saint?

His name was Saint Maurice and he commanded a legion of Roman soldiers after converting to Christianity. He got orders to attack and murder other Christians but refused. Because of his refusal to comply with the orders and murder fellow Christians, he and his entire legion were killed. In this way, he is considered a martyr for Christianity.

Drinking horns were status symbols. Important people, not peasants, had them as they were quite expensive. Often, drinking horns were adorned with silver and gold. This object was in Albert’s treasury. The horn was likely housed at either the Collegiate Church or in an archbishop’s castle.

However, Albert’s reputation was destroyed. He sold indulgences to offset the debt from his lavish lifestyle and tendency to buy expensive holy relics.

Unfortunately, St. Maurice is a lesser-known saint. His cult followership is low when compared to better-known saints like St. Vincent. It is also a shame that one of his biggest advocates would become mired in scandal.

The fact that Germanic peoples coveted an object that was adorned with the image of a black man should be proof that racism was a fairly new concept that had not taken hold in the Germanic states at that time.

St. Maurice holds a shield and a flag, standing in the traditional military commander pose. He is in full armor and he isn’t depicted as a barbarian or subhuman, but as a great military commander.

In this way, the Germanic peoples seemed more progressive than the British in terms of their views of race.

This can also be comprehended to mean that, for Christians, being a Christian was much more important than belonging to the Aryan race.


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