|Saint Ursula, Virgin and
In the St. Ursula story that reached the Golden Legend, the saint was a British princess who went to Rome on pilgrimage with 11,000 other virgins, numerous bishops, and Pope Ciriacus. On the return voyage they stopped at Cologne, which was then being besieged by the Huns. These beheaded the other virgins, and then their prince shot St. Ursula dead with an arrow. The Legend says that some date this event to 238 but that the year 452 is more likely.
The story originated in a local tradition in Cologne that some number of Christian virgins had been martyred by the Romans in the early years of the city. The earliest testimony to these virgins is a stone inscription from the fourth century, now in the choir of the Church of St. Ursula in Cologne. It speaks only of an unspecified number of virgin martyrs "from the East." But in the ninth century a number of liturgical sources mention these Colognese virgins, reporting their number variously as five, eight, or eleven. Scholars are uncertain as to how the number eleven was chosen and then multiplied by a thousand.
St. Ursula's attributes are a crown (as a British princess) and the arrow with which she was killed, as at left. Sometimes she also has a martyr's palm and is identified by a royal English banner (red cross on white field -- example). Daddi's panel of her arrival in Cologne uses both the red-cross banner and the cross-keys device of Pope Ciriacus. A 15th-century portrait boasts a profusion of palms and banners, though the latter have gold crosses on off-white.
Feast day: October 21 (suppressed in 1969)
At left, manuscript illumination from the Netherlands
15th century paintingHagiography: