I must confess that I have never before heard this particular explanation
for the 11,000 Virgins. I am wary of it.
In addition to Levison's thoery, nicely summarized by Katarinette Bodarwe
in another reply, there is the possibility that an inscription reading "XI
M Virgines" (11 martyred virgins) was misread as 11 milium virgines.
What is questionable about the "St. Undemila" theory is that the number of
11,000 was established (or at least first documented) by the 8th century.
To my knowledge, the earliest inclusion of the name Ursula in this company
appears in a tenth-century calendar from Essen. And here, Ursula is not
the leader of the group, but simply one in a list. By the late 10th
century, Ursula appears as the undisputed leader of the company of the
Holy Virgins of Cologne. The legend thus evolved over several centuries
(becoming more and more fantastical). Thus, it strikes me as unlikely
that the establishment of the number of Holy Virgins at 11,000 was the
result a misreading of the name of a St. Undemila. Eventually many names
of the Holy Virgins were "revealed" - from inscriptions found in 12th
century excavations in Cologne and from the mystical revelations of
Elisabeth of Schonau and others. Crombach, in his 1647 tome of Ursula lore
(Ursula vindicata), identifies 9,816 of the company. Perhaps a perusal of
this list would reveal a St. Undemila. (I have not checked.....) It
would be interesting to see if one of the company was thus named.
I would be curious to find out your source for this story.
If you wish to pursue this further, here are a few key texts:
Wilhelm Levison, "Das Werden der Ursula-Legende", Bonner JahrbUcher.
JahrbUcher des Vereins von Altertumsfreunded im Rhineland, 132, 1927,
Hubert Kessel, St. Ursula und ihre Gesellschaft. Eine
kritische-historiesche Monographie, Cologne: Verlag der M.
Hermann Crombach, S. Ursula vindicata. Vita et martyrium S. Ursulae et
sociarum undecim millium virginum, Cologne: Hermann Mylii Birckmann, 1647.
Joseph Solzbacher and Veronika Hopmann, Die Legende der hl. Ursula,
cologne: Wienand Verlag, 1964.
Frank GUnter Zehnder, Sankt Ursula. Legende-Verehrung-Bilderwelt, Cologne:
Wienand Verlag, 1985.
There is a large bibliography, I have left much out. However, this could
"get you started". An excellent recent article (mostly dealing with the
reliquary busts of the 11,000 Virgins, but providing some good background
on the Legend) is: Joan A. Holladay, "Relics, Reliquaries, and Religious
Women: Visualizing the Holy Virgins of Cologne", Studies in Iconography,
18, 1997, pages 67-118.
I hope this helps.
Scott B. Montgomery
University of North Texas
On Sat, 17 Apr 1999 20:31:51 -0500 perea <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hello learned ones,
> I once heard that Ursula was accompanied by a maid named Undemila, both were
> virgins, hence the error of Ursula and the 11,000 virgins.
> Can anyone confirm or deny this.
> Patricia Legorreta