Featuring cherita!

November 15, 2009

The Story of Saint Ursula

After Friday's post I decided to do a little research on Saint Ursula. There's a Wikipedia entry and many other sites. One thing is pretty certain, most of the Ursula story is legend. Here's one short biography from Catholic Saints:
The story and history of Saint Ursula. The legend of St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins has been greatly modified in modern times. It is suggested that instead of ten companions, each with a retinue of a thousand virgins, she had but one companion, named Undecimilla, and that this name was originally mistaken for undecim millia, or 11,000. Whatever may have been the real facts, it is certain that the church dedicated to St. Ursula at Cologne contains more tombs of virgins than can properly be accommodated. The revenues of this church, which are considerable, belong to an abbess and six canonesses, who, to do honour to the saint must all be countesses. The Legend of Saint Ursula is considered to be fiction and in 1969 Pope Paul VI removed her name from the 1969 revision of the the universal calendar of the Catholic canon of saints.
Here's my take on it:

The STORY of Saint Ursula

Ursula, martyred by the Huns, was
massacred along with eleven thousand
virgins. Eleven thousand! Imagine
these thousands of handmaidens screaming,
pleading, praying, hoping to catch the ear of God.

Imagine the Huns. Burly men, hour after hour
lifting axes, slamming them down, cleaving
bone and sinew. Blood spurting, splashing.
Up to their knees in it, yet, powered by evil,
they remained able to complete the vile deed.

It does not have the ring of truth like the
report of an eleven-year-old girl, murdered.
But, where is the STORY in truth? Hmm...eleven?
What if we say Ursula and eleven others?
Better yet, eleven thousand! Make them virgins!

One innocent child murdered? Sad, but
it happens every day. Virgins decapitated by
ruthless barbarians? Sex and gore magnified!
Throw in God and you've got the medieval
equivalent of the Hollywood blockbuster.

Ursula, baby, it's all about STORY.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved

Vittore Carpaccio created an entire sequence of the "Life of Saint Ursula" paintings. You can find them here.


  1. Well, first I read a post from Mur where she says "screw it,' the worst thing I've heard her say in 18 years, and then I read your poem full of blood, guts and gore. What is happening to my sistahs?

    As for the poem itself, I printed it out and stuck it up over my desk, because it IS all about the story.

    Terrific poem! Outstanding last line!

  2. Thanks, Barb! And you forgot to mention that you, too, have gotten suckered into the whole poetry thing! So, I can only conclude that the sistahs are morphing.

  3. Try finding 11,000 adult virgins today. Or eleven.

    I love the undecimilla. dec for ten. un for one. milla for thousand.

    It's all in the story, and it's all in the name, too.

    I don't agree with the Pope's take.

    Love these two blog posts, Diane!


  4. "St. Ursula at Cologne contains more tombs of virgins than can properly be accommodated."

    Somewhere else I read that the bones were not just human. So, what's up with that? More remains would make the 11,000 story somehow more believable? Some really creepy goings-on! Maybe it's time for another poem!