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enter This document, carved on a stone which may be seen in the choir of the Church of St. Ursula at Cologne , is couched in the following terms: It belongs indisputably to the fifth century at the latest, and very probably to the fourth. The recent hypothesis of Reise, according to which the first eight lines, as far as RESTITVIT, belong to the fourth century, while the rest were added in the ninth, is more elegant than solid. With still greater reason must we reject as purely arbitrary that of J. Ficker , which divides the first eight lines into two parts, the first being of pagan origin and dating from before the Christian Era , the second dating from the second century.

But despite its authenticity the inscription is far from clear. Many attempts have been made to interpret it, none of them satisfactory, but at least the following import may be gathered: A certain Clematius, a man of senatorial rank, who seems to have lived in the Orient before going to Cologne , was led by frequent visions to rebuild in this city, on land belonging to him, a basilica which had fallen into ruins, in honour of virgins who had suffered martyrdom on that spot.

This brief text is very important, for it testifies to the existence of a previous basilica, dating perhaps from the beginning of the fourth century, if not from the pre-Constantinian period. For the authentic cult and hence for the actual existence of the virgin martyrs , it is a guarantee of great value, but it must be added that the exact date of the inscription is unknown, and the information it gives is very vague.

It does not indicate the number of the virgins, their names, or the period of their martyrdom. Nor does any other document supply any probable details on the last point. Our ignorance on the first two is lessened to a certain extent by the mention on 21 Oct. Without doubt none of these documents is prior to the ninth century, but they are independent of the legend, which already began to circulate, and their evidence must not be entirely overlooked.

It is noteworthy that in only one of these lists Ursula ranks first. After the inscription of Clematius there is a gap of nearly five hundred years in our documents, for no trace of the martyrs is found again until the ninth century. The oldest written text, "Sermo in natali sanctarum Coloniensium virginum", which seems to date from this period, serves to prove that there was at Cologne no precise tradition relating to the virgin martyrs. According to this, they were several thousand in number, and suffered persecution during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian.

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Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads. Kim Kap Soo Supporting Cast. How do you get your meddlesome family off your back? The literary origin of this romance is not easy to determine. It does not indicate the number of the virgins, their names, or the period of their martyrdom.

The names of only a few of them were known, and of these the writer gives only one, that of Pinnosa, who was then regarded as the most important of the number. Some persons , probably in accordance with an interpretation, certainly questionable, of the inscription of Clematius, considered them as coming from the East, and connected them with the martyrs of the Theban Legion; others held them to be natives of Great Britain, and this was the opinion shared by the authors of the "Sermo".

On the other hand Usuard, in his martyrology dating from about , mentions only "Martha and Saula with several others". But as early as the end of the ninth century or the beginning of the tenth, the phrase "the eleven thousand virgins" is admitted without dispute. How was this number reached?

St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins

All sorts of explanations have been offered, some more ingenious than others. The chief and rather gratuitous suppositions have been various errors of reading or interpretation, e.

It has been conjectured, and this is less arbitrary, that it is the combination of the eleven virgins mentioned in the ancient liturgical books with the figure of several thousand millia given by Wandalbert. However it may be, this number is henceforth accepted, as is also the British origin of the saints , while Ursula is substituted for Pinnosa and takes the foremost place among the virgins of Cologne.

The experiences of Ursula and her eleven thousand companions became the subject of a pious romance which acquired considerable celebrity.

Besides the subsequent revisions of this story there are two ancient versions, both originating at Cologne. One of these Fuit tempore pervetusto dates from the second half of the ninth century , and was only rarely copied during the Middle Ages.

The other Regnante Domino , also compiled in the ninth century, had a wide circulation, but adds little of importance to the first. The author of the latter, probably in order to win more credence for his account, claims to have received it from one who in turn heard it from the lips of St.

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Dunstan of Canterbury , but the serious anachronisms which he commits in saying this place it under suspicion. This legendary account is well known: Ursula, the daughter of a Christian king of Great Britain, was asked in marriage by the son of a great pagan king. Desiring to remain a virgin, she obtained a delay of three years.

At her request she was given as companions ten young women of noble birth, and she and each of the ten were accompanied by a thousand virgins, and the whole company, embarking in eleven ships sailed for three years. When the appointed time was come, and Ursula's betrothed was about to claim her, a gale of wind carried the eleven thousand virgins far from the shores of England , and they went first by water to Cologne and thence to Basle, then by land from Basle to Rome. They finally returned to Cologne , where they were slain by the Huns in hatred of the Faith.

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