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St. Ursula

It is very difficult to sort facts from fiction in the story of St. Ursula. A legend which surfaced in the tenth century, says that the daughter of a British Christian king was asked to marry a pagan prince. The princess, Ursula requested that she be allowed a delay of three years. Ursula and her ten ladies in waiting sailed across the North Sea and up the Rhine. Accompanying each of these eleven women were a thousand virgins. The whole company debarked in Switzerland and traveled to Rome. As they were returning home, the entire company of 11,000 virgins was murdered in Cologne by the Huns, because Ursula would not marry their ruler; this was supposed to have occurred around 451. In another legend, Ursula was the daughter of the king of Cornwall; according to this tale, the British settled America after Britain was conquered by Rome in 383. Ursula was to marry the ruler of these settlers, but she and a band 71,000 women were shipwrecked and they were all murdered or made slaves. The legends of St. Ursula likely grew from a group of virgins that were actually martyred in Cologne; the senator Clematius built a church in their honor. The feast of St. Ursula has traditionally been held October 21.

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