SAINT VICTOR OF SOLOTHURN AND GENEVA
A member of the THEBAN LEGION, a large number of whom were martyred in Switzerland. Victor was killed at Solothurn during the reign of Emperor DIOCLETIAN (284-305), on the spot where the Chapel of Saint Peter later arose. His name appears in the Passio Agaumensium martyrum of Saint Eucherius, bishop of Lyons (434-450) as well as in the anonymous account entitled Passio sancti Mauritii et sociorum ejus, of the monastery of Einsiedeln. According to Fredegar’s Chronicle (602), Saint Victor’s relics were transferred from the Chapel of Saint Peter to a basilica built in his honor outside Geneva, whereupon he became the patron saint of that city. Citation of his martyrdom was frequent in medieval times.
In the ninth century, both Codex 569 of the Library of the Convent of Saint Gall (fols. 224-31) and the Codex Signacensis, originally from the monastery of Signy at Rheims (published by the Bollandists in Acta sanctorum, 30 September), refer to Saint Victor’s story. Moreover, the Martyrologium Romanum of Ado, archbishop of Vienne (800-875), published at Paris in 1645, and the Vitae sanctorum of the Carthusian L. Surius (1522-1578) cite the Victor story under September 30.
The legend of the martyrdom of Victor and Ursus states that, on their refusal to obey the imperial command of Emperor Maximian (286-305) to sacrifice to the heathen gods and slaughter innocent Christian natives, the Roman governor of Solothurn, Hirtacus, subjected them to barbarous tortures, during which miracles occurred. The saints’ shackles broke, and as they were made to walk on blazing embers, the fire was instantaneously extinguished. In the end Hirtacus ordered them beheaded. Both approached their executioner without resistance, and their headless bodies emitted dazzling light before they were thrown into the river Aar.
Afterward, according to Surius and to the Codex Signacensis, the saints stepped out of the water with their heads in their hands, walked a distance from the bank, then knelt and prayed at the spot of their burial, where the Chapel of Saint Peter arose over their tomb. A monastery was founded there by order of Queen Bertrada, wife of Pepin the Short and mother of Charlemagne, in the first half of the eighth century.
In 602 the identification of Saint Victor’s remains at his new resting place near Geneva was made by Bishop Hiconius in the presence of King Theodoric II (587-613). At the beginning of the eleventh century, the saint’s relics were placed under the altar. However, in the Calvinistic upheavals of the sixteenth century, the church was demolished (1534). In 1721, a leaden coffin containing bones was discovered; it was inscribed with the Roman numerals 8-30, which were interpreted as 30 September, the commemoration day of Saint Victor.
There is hardly any doubt about the ethnic origin of Saint Victor of Solothurn. He not only is mentioned among the Thebans in the earliest sources (Saint Eucherius and the anonymous account of Einsiedeln), but his name has always been familiar among the Copts and still is today. It is written Buktor but reads Victor because the letter b is pronounced v when followed by a vowel.
- Abel, D. Die Kronik Fredegars und der Frankenkönige und deren Fortsetzung bis zum Jahre 736. Berlin, 1849. Fredegar’s Chronicle also ed. B. Krusch, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Merovingicarum, Vol. 2. Hannover, 1888. Latin text in PL 71. Paris, 1879.
- Baulaere, L. Oeuvres historiques et littéraires de L. Baulaere 1728-1756, ed. Edouard Mallet. Paris, 1857.
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- Preisigke, F. Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Aegypten, 2 vols. Strasbourg, 1913.
- Namenbuch. Heidelberg, 1922.
SAMIR F. GIRGIS