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On the Kalendar: Ursula and her Companions, Martyrs — 21 October

October from Les Petites Heures d'Anne de Bretagne

“October”, kalendar page from Les Petites Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (The Little Hours of Queen Anne of Bretagne), by the Maître des Triomphes de Pétrarque. From Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris (France).

According to tradition, Urusula was the daughter of King Dionotus of Dumnonia in southwest Britain. Sent by her father to wed the pagan governor of a province in Brittany, Ursula and her improbably large number of handmaidens were swept up in a storm and carried across the Channel to Gaul in a single day. Ursula proposed to undertake a pilgrimage across Europe, and in her travels managed to persuade the Pope and the Bishop of Ravenna to accompany her. The entourage set out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns. Nothing is said of what the Pope or the Bishop of Ravenna did, but the handmaidens were beheaded in a massacre, and Ursula was killed by bow and arrow.

The Order of Usrulines was founded in 1535 to promote the education of young girls, and Hildegard of Bingen composed many chants in honor of Ursula.

Ursula’s feast day is 21 October.

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