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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Arrival of the Pilgrims in Cologne by Vittore Carpaccio

The Arrival of the Pilgrims in Cologne

The painting The Arrival of the Pilgrims in Cologne is the seventh painting in the series of Stories from the Legend of St. Ursula. In the painting, you can see one of the ships docked while the other ships of the retinue are still waiting in the bay. You can also see Ursula and Pope Cyriacus and leaning over the ship asking questions of the boatman. Armed guards and lots of activity make their appearance in this busy port.

The painter Vittore Carpaccio was born in Venice to a leather merchant. Not much is known about his life other than he painted a number of great works. The Legend of St. Ursula is one of his best works that depicts a story. Each painting marked a particular place and scene in the legend. These types of series paintings would require a number of years of study and research.

The paintings depict Ursula who was a 5th century daughter of an English King. According to the legend, a Hun king asked for the hand of Ursula for his son Ethereus and threatened to invade England if the English king refused. The English king in his wisdom agreed but with a number of conditions which included 10 females to accompany the princess, three years of prayer for Ursula, and a thousand females for each of the 10 women accompanying the princess.

Ursula converted all of the ladies to her religion Christianity. She received a message from an angel that she and her new friends would become martyrs in Cologne. Apparently, the pope also received the same message from the angel and he too went with Ursula to support her. The suitor Ehereus amazingly also received the message and went to Cologne to join the party.

Once in Cologne the Huns attempted to take advantage of the girls. Due to their new faith, the women resisted their advances. Apparently, Julius, a Hun leader, instructed to have all of her companions killed. This included Ethereus. Julius attempted to save her life but when she refused his marriage offer, he threw an arrow and hit her in the heart thereby martyring her. A new group called the Ursulines started in 1535 Italy to commemorate her beliefs.

Regardless of your particular religious leanings, you can appreciate the story as one interest and value. The series of paintings is a beautiful example of the Venice Renaissance and maintains a touch of humanism. There were a number of paintings by other artists of this event. You may read about the artists and the legend below. 


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