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Saint Ursula and the virgin martyrs

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Lower Rhine (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1535 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Panel of clear and coloured glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

  • Credit Line:

    Given by J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr

  • Museum number:

    C.73-1919

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case BAY3 []

An inscription, dated to about 400, is carved on a stone in the church of St Ursula in Cologne. It states that at that time Clematius restored the church to house the bones of a group of virgin martyrs. Tradition holds they were killed by pagan Huns in or near the city of Cologne.

Over the centuries one of these virgins was given the name of Ursula. By the 13th century the number of virgins had grown to 11,000. In the Golden Legend, a compilation of saints’ lives written about 1260, she is the daughter of a Christian British king. Ursula was reluctant to marry a pagan Hun prince. Eventually, the King of the Huns had Ursula and her virgin companions killed. She is shown here holding an arrow, the instrument of her martyrdom.

St Ursula’s cult was enormously successful in Germany, especially in Cologne, but it never became strong in Britain, despite the British connection. It is probable that this window was originally located in the church of St. Peter's in Cologne.

Place of Origin

Lower Rhine (made)

Date

ca. 1535 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Panel of clear and coloured glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain

Dimensions

Height: 156.3 cm unframed, Width: 69.1 cm unfamed, Weight: 11.72 kg unframed

Object history note

Probably from the church of St Peter's, Cologne.

Historical context note

There is an inscription, dated to about 400, carved on a stone in the church of St. Ursula in Cologne which states that Clematius restored the church at that time to house the bones of a group of virgin martyrs. It has been held that these virgins were killed by pagan Huns in or near the city of Cologne.

Over the centuries one of these virgins was given the name of Ursula and the number of virgins she perished with grew, by the thirteenth century, to 11,000. In The Golden Legend, a mid 13th century compilation of saints' lives, she became the daughter of a British Christian king who was relunctant to marry a pagan Hun prince. Eventually the King of the Huns had her and her virgin companions killed and Ursula is shown here holding an arrow, the instrument of her martyrdom.

In spite of this popular association with Britain, St. Ursula's cult was not strong here but was enormously successful in Germany and especially in Cologne.

It is probable that this window was originally located in the church of St. Peter's in Cologne.

Descriptive line

Panel of clear and coloured glass with painted details and yellow (silver) stain. Depicting St. Ursula and the Virgin Martyrs. Made in Germany (Lower Rhineland), c.1535.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
Ivo Rauch & Hartmust Scholz, Sankt Peter zu Koln: Meisterwerke der Glasmalerei Band 1, Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner, 2007

Labels and date

St Ursula and the Virgin Martyrs
St Ursula is shown holding the instrument of her martyrdom, a large arrow, while a small group of her companions gather around her. The saint was especially revered in Cologne where she was said to have died.
Cologne, Germany, about 1535
Clear and coloured glass, with paint and silver stain
From church of St Peter, Cologne
Museum no. C.73-1919. Given by J.Pierpont Morgan, Jr. []

Materials

Glass

Techniques

Pot metal; Painting; Silver staining

Subjects depicted

Saint; Arrow; Putti; Festoon; Martyrdom

Categories

Stained Glass; Christianity; Religion

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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