Probably fourth-century virgin and martyr. In the church of St. Ursula at Cologne, Germany, there is a stone bearing a Latin inscription that dates probably back to the second half of the fourth century. It indicates that Clematius, a man of senatorial rank, rebuilt a ruined basilica in honor of certain virgins martyred on the spot. No authentic account identifying these virgins exists. Ursula was first nominated to their number in the ninth century. Some stories say there were 11 martyrs, others say 11,000. One Cologne version states that Ursula and her companions were British and that they were slain by the Huns in 451. The unearthing of presumed relics at Cologne in 1155 occasioned the embroidering of the story by inventing a litany of names for Ursula's companions. The original martyrs, of unknown name and origin, were put to death probably sometime in the beginning of the fourth century.
Feast: Oct. 21.
Bibliography: Acta Sanctorum (Antwerp 1643– ; Venice 1734– ; Paris 1863–) Oct. 9:73–303. Ursula-Legenden im Kölner Druck, ed. u. rautenberg (Cologne 1992). c. m. kauffmann, The Legend of Saint Ursula (London 1964). f. bardon, La peinture narrative de Carpaccio dans le cycle de Ste. Ursule (Venice 1985). a. schnyder, Die Ursulabruderschaften des Spätmittelalters (Bern 1986). i. kehl, Vittore Carpaccios Ursulalegendenzyklus der Scuola di Sant'Orsola in Venedig (Worms 1992). Hochgotischer Dialog: die Skulpturen der Hochaltäre von Marienstatt und Oberwesel im Vergleich, ed. w. wilhelmy (Worms am Rhein 1993). v. carpaccio, Carpaccio: storie di Sant'Orsola, ed. g. nepi scirÈ (Milan 2000). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 4:165–168.