Felix and Regula : a Zurich legend
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Legend has it that Felix and Regula, Roman Christians and the patron saints of Zürich, fled to the city from the massacre of their legion in Valais in the third century AD. They were martyred by decapitation on the site of today’s Wasserkirche for refusing to pray to Roman gods, whereupon they picked up their heads and carried them up the hill to the spot where they wished to be buried. Over the next centuries, pilgrims came from all over the region to pray at the graves of the saints, even though the legend of their martyrdom was probably one which survived by word of mouth only. By the eighth century the story had been written down, in conjunction with another tale in which Charlemagne arrived at the same spot having hunted a stag all the way from Aachen near Köln, when his horse suddenly went down on its knees in deference to the saints buried beneath. Charlemagne proceeded to found a church and adjacent chapterhouse in their honour, the forerunner of the Grossmünster. In the late ninth century, relics of the saints were transferred to the newly rebuilt Fraumünster, the women’s convent just across the Limmat, forming a pilgrimage trail through the city: the Grossmünster as the site of burial, the Wasserkirche as the site of execution, and the Fraumünster as the repository of the saints’ remains. A bridge – the Münsterbrücke – was built to link all three in about 1220.

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