11k little bears, done in by the Huns

Today’s saintly tale, thanks to a reminder from Anonymous 4, advertising their wonderful album 11,000 Virgins: Chants for the Feast of St. Ursula (by Hildegard von Bingen).

From Wikipedia:

Saint Ursula (Latin for ‘little female bear’) is a legendary Romano-British Christian saint, died on October 21, 383.

… Her legendary status comes from a medieval story that she was a princess who, at the request of her father King Dionotus of Dumnonia in south-west Britain, set sail along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens to join her future husband, the pagan governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica [the name given in ancient times to the part of Gaul that includes the Brittany peninsula and the territory between the Seine and Loire rivers]. … After setting out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre. The Huns’ leader fatally shot Ursula with a bow and arrow in about 383 AD (the date varies).

(Hans Memling, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula (c. 1489))

… In the 1480s, Hans Memling fashioned a wooden shrine that contained the relics of Ursula, which is now at the Hans Memling Museum in Bruges. It tells the story of Ursula in six bow-arched panels, with the two front panels showing Ursula accompanied by 10 virgins, each representing 1,000 virgins.

… Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean in her honor when sailing past them in 1493.

… The Order of Ursulines, founded in 1535 by Angela Merici, and devoted to the education of young girls, has also helped to spread Ursula’s name throughout the world. St. Ursula was named the patron saint of school girls.

And previously on this blog, in my¬†11/24/14 posting “Ciao, Carpaccio!”, a note on the¬†painter Vittore Carpaccio, ‘best known for a cycle of nine paintings, The Legend of Saint Ursula”.

By the way, 11k is a very serious contender for the mass martyrdom volume prize. Surely it’s the winner in the young virgins division, but it can probably take the grand prize as well.

One Response to “11k little bears, done in by the Huns”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    There’s a somewhat curious reference to the St. Ursula legend in a German (Austrian?) folk song/poem from the collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”): in Das Himmmlische Leben (“Heavenly Life”), used by Mahler as the finale of his 4th Symphony, the last verse (about the music in heaven) includes the lines “Elftausend Jungfrauen zu tanzen sich trauen — / Sankt Ursula selbst dazu lacht!” (“Eleven thousand virgins devote themselves to dancing, and even St. Ursula laughs”).

    So now I’m wondering if there’s any particular reason to expect St. Ursula’s virgins to be dancing.

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