Saint Ursula (birth and death dates vary, but she most likely lived sometime between 230-451… a very broad range I’d say.)

The legends began in 4th century Cologne. Ursula was a princess who was set to marry a pagan governor by the name of Conan Meriadoc of Armorica. She set sail to meet her future husband with 11 maids in waiting, who were each attended by A THOUSAND virginal handmaidens. That is QUITE an entourage. When she refused to marry Conan, her ships were attacked and all the virgins were beheaded!

The Basilica of St. Ursula in Cologne contains the bones of these victims in crazy patterns and swirls, and the attached chapel contains sculptures of their heads and torsos. She is often depicted surrounded by children- this is because when they found these so-called bones, many of the victims appeared to be children (odd for an entire army of virgins.)

So here’s a good explanation of why there are so many discrepancies in the story:

In the 8th century, relics of virgin martyrs were found. One of these martyrs was an eleven year old girl named Ursula, in Latin, Undecimilia (Ursula) was misread as undicimila (which translates to 11,000). Regardless, a bunch of virgins were murdered in Cologne and whomever Ursula really was, she represents the victims.

Hildegard of Bingen composed many chants in Ursula’s honor.

Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean in her honor in 1493.

Her feast day is: October 21

She is the Patron Saint of Cologne, England, Archers, Orphans, and Students.

You can see some pretty incredible pics of the Church (and all them bones), along with more information about the story here: