Wednesday, 1 January 2014

vestal

H and I had the chance to visit the city of Köln (Cologne—the exonym coming from the Roman colony established there) and stayed very near the fifth century basilica-minor of Saint Ursula and discovered a little bit about the legendary story behind this edifice and the saint.
 It's a historical fact that there was in the second century a princess in Roman-controlled Briton that chose to dedicate herself to the new Church. The Ursuline Order was a thousand years later established in her honour, as was the naming the Virgin Islands. Her story becomes a little amazing and conflated afterwards, having resolved to travel all of the mainland as a missionary and brought eleven-thousand of her like-minded—wed to the Church, friends with her. First they all sailed to visit the Pope in Rome, in record time, whom approved of their cause and advised that their next stop should be the distant outpost in Köln, but sadly their pilgrimage ended there, massacred by heathen Huns upon on arrival. The origin of such an impossibly large entourage in the thousands may have been over one companion ambiguously named Undecimilla (the Romans had the convention of naming daughters in order of birth in the Middle Republic—Tertia if there were three daughters or Quinta for the fifth plus a part of the family name) but it is more likely due to the fact a previously unknown mass-grave was discovered on the grounds of the church some seven hundred years after it was dedicated to Ursula.

Though the site included the skeletal remains of children, men and animals, the find was tidily appropriated as Ursula's following and a Golden Chamber (Goldene Kammer) was built with gilt cases. Latter day physicians have gotten hate-mail for pointing out that some of the reliquaries hold the skulls of dogs. And though the enlargement of the structure may be a ploy to lure pilgrims, like the nearby Cathedral of Cologne (Dom zu Köln) which is home to the relics of the Three Magi, it is a pretty neat tale. Check out the related post from Atlas Obscura for a gallery of images from the Golden Chamber.