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Beginning in the thirteenth-century, artists in Cologne created reliquary busts to contain the physical remains of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins. These reliquaries are visually unique because they are strikingly life-like and coney obvious feminine qualities. It is odd that the reliquaries’ approachable femininity is celebrated because women were often damned as the instigators of the original sin. With this central Christian idea in mind, it is therefore all the more surprising that Christians venerated Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, a group of female martyrs, whose reliquaries and legend have highly gendered characteristics. In my presentation, I explicated the significance of these reliquaries through examining the symbolism of the Passion of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins, the formation of the cult of their relics, and the meaning of these reliquary busts in late medieval society.

People

Elizabeth Hirsch
Researcher

Eliza Garrison
Sponsor and Assistant Professor of History of Art & Architecture

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A MiddLab Project

Oath-Sworn: The Concept of Oath-taking in Northwestern Medieval Europe

Learn more about History and Undergraduate Research at Middlebury College.

Oaths play an important role in our modern society from swearing-in procedures to Middlebury’s own Honor Code. A thousand years ago, oaths had a much larger role in early medieval society. Oaths were used to create artificial bonds between people. These bonds were the glue that kept the often violent early medieval society from falling apart. My study focuses on the social history of the oaths in northwestern Viking Age Europe through a close examination of Norse Sagas and French and English epics.

People

Christopher Rogers
Researcher

Louisa Burnham
Associate Professor of History & Advisor

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