In Cologne the natal day Not the birthday but the day they died and were "born again" into Heaven of Saints Ursula and Companions. They achieved martyrdom when the Huns killed them for being Christians constant in their virginity. Several of their bodies were secreted in Cologne. – Roman Martyrology for October 21
In the St. Ursula story that reached the Golden Legend, the saint was an English princess who went to Rome on pilgrimage with 11,000 other virgins. From there, they and Pope Ciriacus traveled to Cologne, as shown in the first picture at right. There they all suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Huns
The story originated in a local tradition in Cologne that some number of Christian virgins had been martyred by the Romans in the early years of the city. The earliest testimony to these virgins is a stone inscription from the fourth century, now in the choir of the Church of St. Ursula in Cologne. It speaks only of an unspecified number of virgin martyrs "from the East." But in the ninth century a number of liturgical sources mention these Colognese virgins, reporting their number variously as five, eight, or eleven. Scholars are uncertain as to how the number eleven was chosen and then multiplied by a thousand.1
Medieval portraits of St. Ursula are often found among other saints in altarpieces (example) and predellas (example). In the Golden Legend her companions were beheaded but she was shot with an arrow by the Hun prince, whom she had spurned. The second picture at right therefore uses an arrow as her attribute and adds a banner with the cross of St. George, the patron saint of England. The banner is very common in her portraits, the arrow less so. As a princess, she is often pictured with a crown, as in the third picture at right.
Prepared in 2015 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University