Regula

Gender: Feminine
Origin: Latin
Meaning: “rule; law”
(REG-oo-LAH).

This name may seem unusual to the common English speaker, but when in Switzerland, specifically in the German speaking parts, you will find quite a few of them of varying ages.

It is safe to say that the name is a “Swiss German” classic. She is even apart of a lyric in Florian Ast’s, (a Swiss pop singer), song entitled Sex. Sung in the traditional schwyzertuutsch, the main dialect spoken in Germanic Switzerland. To see the lyrics, in which you will see a variety of very popular Swiss German female names, you can see the text here, http://www.allthelyrics.com/lyrics/ast_florian/.

The name doesn’t seem to get much usage out of Switzerland, and surprisingly, it’s even unusual in the French and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland. I always found it rather odd that an obscure name of Latin origins should be popular in a very minor part of the world, especially in a German speaking area, while being virtually unheard of in say, Italy or Spain, where the languages are Latin based.

Further research brought me to the legend of Ss. Felix & Regula, two 3rd century saints who were martyred in what is now Zurich.

The story is rather interesting, the saints, being long dead, later played a huge role in Swiss Religious-Politics during the time of the Reformation, when the adherents of Huldrych Zwingli, raided the monastery of Ss. Felix & Regula, and exhumed the graves of both the saints, they ran off with the bones, attempting to throw them into the river, somehow, a pious Catholic man of Uri managed to rescue the bones where he buried them in the village of Andematt. The skulls of both saints can be seen there till this day, and carbon dating later proved that one skull dated to the Middle Ages, while the other consisted of two different skull fragments, one part dating back to the Middle Ages, and the other dating, interestingly enough, back to Roman times.

The legend of the saints themselves is even more gory. Ss. Felix and Regula were siblings who happened to be members of the Egyptian Theban legions who were stationed in Valais Switzerland. Many of the members converted to Christianity, all to the consternation of the Roman Empire. When an execution was posted for the Christians of the legions, Ss. Felix and Regula fled to what is now Zurich. There they were caught and beheaded.

According to legend, their headless bodied walked several paces before collapsing down on a patch of dirt where they were later buried and a monastery erected in their honour.

Before the Reformation, the monastery was a huge pilgrimage site for Catholics across Switzerland. Apparently, where 40% of the country remains Catholic, the legend of the two saints still holds, as Saint Regula continues to inspire Swiss parents to name their daughters after her.

She has a pleasant appeal, strong, yet distinctively feminine, she might make an interesting alternative to Regina, with the nickname of Regi to boot.

Other associations with the name include the Regula Benedicti, (the Rules of St. Benedict) a 7th century document written by St. Benedict of Nursia which gives out precepts on how to live a monastic life. The book is still used by modern day Christians monks and nuns as a source of inspiration.

There is also a masculine version: Regulus, which is the name of a character in the Harry Potter novels a la JK Rowling.

Two other forms include the French, Régula and the Italian, Regola.