URSULA, ST., the heroine of a very curious legend of the Middle Ages, whose origin may be ascribed to the 12th cen tury, and which runs as follows: Deo natus, King og britain, had a very beau tiful and pious daughter named Ursula. She was sought in marriage by the heathen prince Holofernes. His suit was granted, but under the following condi tions—the prince must become Chris tian, and wait for three years while the bride-elect went with her companions on a pilgrimage to Rome. The suitor was immediately baptized under the name of /Etherius, and Ursula set out with 11 vessels, in each of which there were 1,000 companion virgins. The company crossed the sea and sailed up the Rhine as far as Basel, from thence they pro ceeded overland to Rome, where they were honorably received by Pope Cyria kus. The pious and gallant pontiff, along with a multitude of dignified eccle siastics, accompanied his fair guests a great part of the return journey, and according to some accounts even shared in the final destruction that suddenly overtook the band; for as they were about to land at Köln they were set on by a horde of heathen Huns, by whom they were all slaughtered. Ursula was at first reserved as a bride for Etzel, the Hun king, and on her steadfast refusal of the offer she was transfixed by an arrow, and thus she is represented in mediaeval art. But the bloody deed was no sooner accomplished than 11,000 celestial warriors appeared, who com pletely routed the Huns and freed Koln. The citizens buried the unhappy maidens with pious care by the Rhine, held after ward sacred, and there too Clematius, a Greek pilgrim, built a church in their honor.
The story excited suspicion even in a credulous age. But confirmations were not wanting. St. Elizabeth, abbess of the cloister Sch5nau, by Oberwesel, held spiritual communication with St. Verena, one of the murdered virgins, and saw the whole tragedy enacted as in a vision. Moreover, Egbert, brother of the abbess, and inspired by her, wrote down an ex planation and defense of the story. In this several awkward inconsistencies were smoothed away. Thus there was no mention by Roman chroniclers of a Pope Cyriakus; but this (explained the nar rator) was because the cardinals were angry at his leaving the city, and blotted out all mention of him from the records of the Church. If it was asked how the virgins made such excellent sailors, it was replied that King Deonatus had with prudent foresight concealed a num ber of mariners in the hold of each vessel, and so on. Later critics have striven to explain the vastness of the number. It has been ingeniously con jectured that the number, at first 11, be came 11,000 by reading the letter M. (meaning martyred) as the Roman numeral 1,000. However this may be, it seems probable that some Christian maidens were really murdered by heathen invaders near Köln, and that the story has thus some basis of fact.