St. Ursula ShrineHet Ursulaschrijn

St. John's Hospital Memling Museum of Bruges

But all men gainsaid it, and especially the cardinals, which supposed that he trespassed, leaving the glory of the papacy and would go after these foolish virgins, but he would not agree to abide, but ordained an holy man to occupy in his place, which was named Ametus. And because he left the see apostolic against the will of the clergy, the clerks put out his name of the catalogue of popes. And all the grace that he had gotten in his time, this holy company of women made him for to leave it.

“Return from Basel”, “Martyr of the Eleven Thousand Virgins”, “Martyr of St. Ursula”, Shrine de St. Ursula, Hans Memling Museum, Old St. John's Hospital, Bruges (Brugge)
“Return from Basel”, “Martyr of the Eleven Thousand Virgins”, “Martyr of St. Ursula”

And then two felon princes of the chivalry of Rome, Maximus and Africanus, saw this great company of virgins, and that many men and women assembled to them, doubted that christian religion should much be increased by them, wherefore they required diligently of their voyage. And then sent they messengers to Julian, their cousin, prince of the lineage of the Huns, that he should bring his host against them, and should assemble at Cologne, and there behead them because they were christian. And the blessed Ciriacus issued out of the city of Rome with this blessed company of virgins, and Vincent, priest cardinal, and Jacobus that was come from Britain into Antioch, and had held there seven years the dignity of the bishop, which then had visited the pope, and was gone out of his city and held company with these virgins, when he heard of their coming, and suffered martyrdom with them. And Maurice, bishop of Levicana, the city, uncle of Babilla and Juliana, and Follarius, bishop of Lucca, with Sulpitius, bishop of Ravenna, which then were come to Rome, put them in the company of these virgins.

“Return from Basel”, Shrine de St. Ursula, Hans Memling Museum, Old St. John's Hospital, Bruges (Brugge)
“Return from Basel”

Ethereus, the husband of Ursula, abiding in Britain, was warned of our Lord by a vision of an angel that he should exhort his mother to be christian. For his father died the first year that he was christened, and Ethereus, his son, succeeded after him in his reign. And then when these holy virgins returned from Rome with the bishops, Ethereus was warned of our Lord that he should anon arise and go to meet his wife at Cologne, and there receive with her the crown of martyrdom, the which anon obeyed to admonishments divine, and did do baptize his mother and came with her and his little sister Florence, then also baptized, and with the bishop Clement, meeting the holy virgins, and accompanied them unto martyrdom. And Marculus, bishop of Greece, and his niece Constance, daughter of Dorotheus, king of Constantinople, which was married to the son of a king, but he died tofore the wedding, and she avowed to our Lord her virginity; they were also warned by a vision, and came to Rome and joined them to these virgins unto the martyrdom.

And then all these virgins came with the bishops to Cologne, and found that it was besieged with the Huns. And when the Huns saw them they began to run upon them with a great cry, and araged like wolves on sheep, and slew all this great multitude. And when they were all beheaded, they came to the blessed Ursula.

“Martyr of the Eleven Thousand Virgins”, “Martyr of St. Ursula”, Shrine de St. Ursula, Hans Memling Museum, Old St. John's Hospital, Bruges (Brugge)
“Martyr of the Eleven Thousand Virgins”, “Martyr of St. Ursula”

The prince of them, seeing her beauty so marvellous, was abashed, and began to comfort her upon the death of the virgins, and promised to her to take her to his wife. And when she had refused him and despised him at all, he shot at her an arrow, and pierced her through the body, and so accomplished her martyrdom. And one of the virgins, which was named Cordula, was sore afeared, and hid herself all that night in a ship, but on the morn she suffered death by her free will, and took the crown of martyrdom. And because her feast was not held with the other virgins, she appeared long after to a recluse, and commanded him that the next day following the feast of the virgins, her feast should be remembered. They suffered death the year of our Lord two hundred and thirty-eight. But some hold opinion that the reason of the time showeth that they suffered not death in that time, for Sicily ne Constantinople were then no realms, but it is supposed that they suffered death long time after, when Constans was emperor, and that the Huns and Goths enforced them against christian men in the time of the emperor Marcian, that reigned in the year of our Lord four hundred and fifty-two.

“Virgin and child and donatresses”, Shrine de St. Ursula, Hans Memling Museum, Old St. John's Hospital, Bruges (Brugge)
“Virgin and child and donatresses”

There was an abbot that impetred of the abbess of the place where these holy virgins rest in Cologne, a body of one of these virgins, and promised that he would set it in his church in a fair shrine of silver, but when he had it, he kept it a year upon the altar in a chest of tree. And in a night as the abbot sang matins, the said virgin descended from the altar bodily, and inclined honourably tofore the altar, and went through the choir, seeing all the monks which, were thereof sore abashed, and then the abbot ran and found it all void and nothing therein. Then the abbot went to Cologne and told to the abbess all the thing by order. Then went they to the place where they had taken the body, and found the same there again. And then the abbot required pardon, and prayed the abbess that he might have again the same body or another, promising right certainly to make hastily a precious shrine, but he could none have in no manner.

There was a religious monk which had great devotion to these holy virgins, and it happed that he was on a day sick, and saw a right fair and noble virgin appear to him, and demanded him if he knew her. And he was amarvelled of this vision, and said he knew her not. And she said: I am one of the virgins to whom thou hast such great devotion, and thereof thou shalt have a reward. If thou say eleven thousand paternosters for the love and honour of us, we shall come unto thine aid and comfort at the hour of thy death, and then she vanished away. And he accomplished her request as soon as he might, and anon after he did do call his abbot, and did him to be annealed or anointed. And as they anointed him he cried suddenly: Make ye place to the holy virgins, and go out of the way that they may come to me. And when the abbot demanded him what it was, and what he meant, he told to him by order the promise of the virgin. Then all they withdrew them a little after, and soon came again and found him departed out of this world unto our Lord. Then let us devoutly give laud and praising unto the blessed Trinity and pray him that by the merits of this great multitude of martyrs he will forgive and pardon us of our sins, that after this life we may come unto this holy company in heaven.

Jacobus de Varagine, Legenda Aurea, Chapter 158 “the Eleven Thousand Virgins”.