Attributed to Juan de Anchieta

Azpeitia circa 1533 – Pamplona 1588

Reliquary of a Saint (inscription on the base:

“Cabeza de Once Mil Virgenes”)

Gilt and polycrhrome wood

67 x 50 x 29 cm (base included)


Spanish Art Market, 2017

The Legend of Saint Ursula and the eleven thousand virgins. According to the Golden Legend, Saint Ursula was the daughter of a Christian king in Britain and was granted a three year postponement of a marriage she did not wish, to a pagan prince. With ten ladies in waiting, each attended by a thousand maidens, she went on a pilgrimage to Rome. On their way back, they were all massacred by pagan Huns at Cologne in about 451 when Ursula refused to marry their chieftain. A Romanesque basilica was built in Cologne to honor Ursula and the virgin martyrs where their relics are alleged to be kept in the Golden Chamber

The legend of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins arrived in Spain thanks to Beatriz of Suabia, married to King Fernando III El Santo. Consequently, numerous relics of the Saint and the martyrs have entered the peninsula. Some temples devoted to the saints are the Church of Santa Cruz in Baeza (Jaén) or Monasterio de las Cañas, (La Rioja).