Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ursula and Companions

Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins of Cologne (RM)
A group of virgins who were martyred at Cologne, Germany, perhaps under Diocletian in the 4th c. Their number probably 11 rather than 11,000, an exaggeration due to a misreading of Roman numerals and letters (Encyclopedia), or because of later events. During the 12th century a pious romance was preposterously elaborated through the mistakes of imaginative visionaries; a public burial ground uncovered at Cologne was taken to be the grave of the martyrs, false relics came into circulation, and forged epitaphs of non- existent persons were produced (Attwater).
There are two forms of the legend: one in Cologne and another Gallic. The legend says that Ursula was the daughter of a Christian king of Britain, who was granted a three-year postponement of a marriage she did not wish to a pagan prince, set sail with 10 companions in 11 ships. Each of her companions travelled with 1,000 maid-servants. They sailed to Cologne and then along the Rhein to Basel. At Basel they moored their ships and crossed the Alps in order to visit Rome. Ursula decided to lead her companions back to Cologne. There the leader of the Huns fell in love with her, was spurned, and massacred both the British princess and her 11,000 companions.

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