Monday, 18 March 2013
The Virgin Islands
I was delighted to receive a mapsent from the USA, showing The Virgin Islands, somewhere I'm never likely to visit. I know nothing about the islands but apparently they were named by Christopher Columbus after St Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. Gosh.
So I had to find out about St Ursula and her virgins. She was a British princess in the 4th/5th century and set off to marry Conan Meriadoc in Brittany, accompanied by 11,000 (or so) handmaidens. The story continues when Ursula decides to make a pilgrimage around Europe but she was shot and her handmaidens were beheaded.
The early legends mentioned only a few handmaidens and it wasn't until the 9th century that they became 11,000. Scholars think that the confusion may have come about by someone mistranslating undecimilia (Latin for 11) which is not too different from undicimila (Latin for 11,000).