He was born in Egypt in the 3rd century and became an officer in the Theban Legion, a division of Christian warriors enlisted by the Emperor Maximian to fight against the Huns. By the lake of Geneva, the emperor asked the legion to make a sacrifice to the pagan gods to ensure the welfare of the operation; the soldiers refused and the emperor ordered that the legion be decimated, in other words that every tenth soldier be killed. The soldiers stood fast and the killing continued until all the 6,600 men of the Thaban Legion were massacred, including their leader, Maurice. The town of St. Maurice now stands on the site of this bloody event. The cult of St. Maurice and his soldiers is widespread in Italy and Switzerland and particularly in France. The saint is normally depicted as a black man on a horse. He is the patron saint of soldiers, armourers, swordsmiths and horses as well as shopkeepers, dyers, weavers, drapers and hatters, protector of vines and helper of the obsessed and those suffering from gout, ear infections and diseased horses.