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The Legend of Saint Ursula (1)

1 The Legend of Saint Ursula

Ursula was a Christian living in Brittany during the 3rd century. In order to escape from her suitor, she left for Rome in a three years’ pilgrimage with Saint Cyriac, together with 11.000 virgins. On her way back, she was thought to have been captured by the Huns. She refused to marry their chief, to avoid renouncing her faith. She was pierced by arrows from the Huns who were then besieging Köln, and put to death with her companions.

Oil on canvas. 17th century. Tower of the Abbey of Saint Amand.

The legend begins in 1150, with the discovery in a church of Köln of a tomb stone bearing the inscription “XIMV “ (This was interpreted as XI . M . V : eleven thousand virgins), but it could also be XI Virgin Martyrs. She was worshiped particularly in Köln, in the church of Saint Ursula, presumed to be the place of her martyrdom. Saint Ursula is the patron saint of Köln. Eleven flames are seen on the city’s coat of arms. Saint Ursula is also the patroness of young girls and of cloth merchants, for she was protected by a miraculous coat. The feast of Saint Ursula is on October 21. The symbols attributed to her are ; arrows –a ship – pilgrims – the palm of martyrdom. Her iconography begins to develop from the 14th century on. Hans Memling, a Flemish painter (1430-1494 Bruges) and Vittore Carpaccio, a painter belonging to the Venitian school (1465 Venice-1520) have represented the legend in their work.

Stained glass - Coat of arms of a Bishop of Cambrai
Saint Ursula Valenciennes

During their General Assembly on Febrary 27, the FRIENDS OF THE MUSEUM launched a campaign asking sponsors to participate during 60 days with the society DARTAGNANS, in view of restoring the painting, “Martyrdom of Saint Ursula”.

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The Legend of Saint Ursula

March, 2019

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