St. Ursula's Day around the world in 2024

St. Ursula's Day around the world in 2024
Sunset on the British Virgin Islands. Image by Joann , via Pixabay
  How long until St. Ursula's Day?
There are no upcoming dates for this event
  Dates of St. Ursula's Day around the world
2020 British Virgin IslandsOct 23
British Virgin Islands Fri, Oct 23National Holiday (in lieu)
2019 British Virgin IslandsOct 21
British Virgin Islands Mon, Oct 21National Holiday

Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands after St. Ursula after sailing past in 1493

When is Saint Ursula's Day?

Saint Ursula's Day is a public holiday in the British Virgin Islands on October 21st. If October 21st falls on a weekend, the holiday may be observed in lieu on the following Monday.

The first European sighting of the islands was by Christopher Columbus in 1493 during his second voyage to the Americas. Columbus gave them the name Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes ("Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins"), which was soon shortened to Las Vírgenes ("The Virgins"), after the legend of Saint Ursula.

It is unclear if Columbus named the islands because he spotted them on October 21st which is Saint Ursula's Feast Day or if it was because he saw one larger island (which he named Virgin Gorda "Fat Virgin") accompanied by a myriad of smaller islands and it reminded him of the legend.

Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins

Saint Ursula is a Romano-British Christian saint whose traditional date of death is October 21st 383AD.

Her fame is based on a medieval story (considered by many to be more of a legend due to the lack of corroborating information) which tells us that she was a princess from Dumnonia (modern-day Cornwall in England). At the request of her father King Dionotus, Ursula set sail along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens to join her future husband, Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica (modern-day Brittany).

After leaving the British coast in her fleet, a miraculous storm brought them over the English Channel in a single day to Gaul. Ursula decided that the storm was a sign that before her marriage she should undertake a pilgrimage around Europe for a bit and not at all an excuse to stall her impending marriage. Her first stop was Rome where she persuaded the Pope and the bishop of Ravenna, to join her grand tour.

After passing through several towns she arrived at Cologne, which was under siege by Huns at the time. The Huns beheaded all the virgins and the Huns' leader fatally shot Ursula with an arrow. The supposed relics of Ursula and her handmaidens are housed in the Basilica of St. Ursula in Cologne.

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