Relics, Reliquaries and the Visual Culture of Group Sanctity in Late Medieval Europe
IV. Ecclesia sanctarum undecim milium virginum: The Church of the Eleven Thousand Virgins and its Decoration
IV. Ecclesia sanctarum undecim milium virginum : The Church of the Eleven Thousand Virgins and its Decoration Despite the extensive dissemination and presence of their relics in Cologne and elsewhere, the core of the cult of the Holy Virgins remained the mother- house and titular church of the cult – the ecclesia sanctarum undecim milium virginum (Church of the Eleven Thousand Virgins) [Figs. 2 and 3]. Since the sixteenth-century, it has been known as the Church of St. Ursula.1 The Clematius Inscription provides the first source regarding a church on the site, dedicated to Holy Virgins, which was constructed with funds provided by Clematius as a votive offering, presumably in the fifth century. The ninth- century Vita of St. Kunibert (died after 648) reports that the saint made a visit “in sanctarum virginum basilica,” during which he was guided by a dove to rediscover the tomb of Ursula.2 While providing clear evidence of the existence of the church in the ninth century, this mention suggests that the basilica was dedicated to the Holy Virgins much earlier, as cor- roborated by the Clematius Inscription. A document of 867, listing parishes in Cologne, refers to a “monasterium beatarum virginum.”3 The basilica, 1 Regarding the history of the church of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, see Albert Gereon Stein, “Das Kloster und spätere adelige Damenstift an der Kirche der heiligen 11,000 Jungfrauen zu Köln,” Annalen des historischen Vereins für den Niederrhein, 31 (1877), 45–111; Gertrude Wegener, Geschichte des Stiftes St....
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