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A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography


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Ursula, a famous British virgin and martyr, celebrated as having suffered with 11,000 other virgins at Cologne. Her notice in the Roman Martyrology is simple: "At Cologne, the natal day of SS. Ursula and her companions, who, being slain by the Huns for their Christianity and their virginal constancy, terminated their life by martyrdom. Very many of their bodies were discovered at Cologne." On this foundation the new Bollandists have raised a prodigious edifice of 230 folio pages, where they discuss ( AA. SS. Boll. Oct. t. ix. pp. 73–303) every conceivable fact, topic, or hypothesis concerning these problematical martyrs. Their story, which is purely medieval, is briefly this. Ursula, the daughter of Dionoc, king of Cornwall, was sent by him with her numerous companions to Conan, a British prince, who had followed the tyrant Maximus into Gaul, c. 383. They were somehow carried up the Rhine to Cologne by mistake, where the Huns murdered them all. The enormous number of her companions has been explained as a mistake of the early copyists, who found some such entry as "Ursula et xi. M. V.", which, taking M. for millia, not for martyrs, they read Ursula and 11,000 virgins instead of 11 martyr virgins. Such mistakes frequently occurred in the ancient martyrologies. [Maximus (2).]


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Ursula'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. 1911.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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