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Zurich's September 11th

Ten years ago September 11th became an internationally recognized day as the world witnessed attacks on civilians in the United States and watched as the World Trade Towers came crashing down.


Before those terrible events September 11th had another meaning here in Zurich. It was the feast day for the city’s patron saints Regula and Felix as well as their servant Exuperantius. Exiperantius, however, only appears in the 13th century, whereby the legend dates from much earlier.


Felix and Regula were members of the Theban Legion stationed in the Valais. After their commander converted to Christianity the emperor Diocletian ordered the entire legion to be executed. Regula and Felix refusing to convert back from Christianity fled to Zurich where they were apprehended by legionaries. They were given the option to convert back to the Roman religion, but they refused. As a consequence the two of them were beheaded on the Limmatinsel, on which the Wasserkirche stands today. According to legend, the two decapitated bodies then miraculously stood to their feet, picked up their own heads and then walked 40 paces uphill where they prayed and finally laid down in death. The two cephalophores were then buried where they lay.


In the 11th century the Grossmünster was built on the location of Regula and Felix’s graves and the Wasserkirche on the site of their execution. The feast day in their honour is September 11th, which is also the original reason why Knabenschiessen takes place on the weekend closest to the 11th of September.


Today you can see the story of Regula and Felix represented in pictures in the courtyard of the Fraumünster. They have also both been immortalized on the city’s coat of arms. The two tour boats traveling along the Limmat are also named after the two saints.

Article contributed by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of
Marathon Sprachen, a language school for German and English.


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