Whose bones are they anyway?

Lindy Richardson, Marten Neumann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Examining the story of Saint Ursula and the Virgin Martyrs

I am sitting in my studio making 11 skulls and the associated bones of their skeletons, threading these paper creations together with cotton. Each skull symbolically represents one of the virgin companions for every thousand appearing in the legend of Ursula, a 4th century Christian Saint. Of the 11,000 individuals mentioned in Saint Ursula’s story and her martyred virgin companions almost all but a handful are un-named. Through these artefacts I am creating, it is my intention to validate the bones of these nameless souls which have been presented in the Church of Saint Ursula’s for more than 850 years.

This illustrated paper questions the traditional interpretation of the story of Saint Ursula utilising alternative materials to tell the narrative in a new way and bringing together practice led and written aspects of the research. Ursula and her history is initially researched through analysis of existing texts and with particular reference to The Golden Chamber in Saint Ursula’s church in Cologne.
By making artefacts as well as writing, the central themes of this tale, is presented and consequently interpreted in new ways to a wider audience than the limitations of traditional historical, theological or art history academic research. The artwork which is integrated in this article does not simply illustrate the story but questions traditional interpretation and presentation on ethical and spiritual grounds.

Through working with academics at Stirling University in The Critical Religion Research Group, I was invited to submit a paper for inclusion in ‘Collectanea’ Anthropos , a peer reviewed journal due for publication in mid 2013. I believe my contribution is significant in its inclusion alongside traditional academics as not only does it embrace an interdisciplinary approach to research groupings, but broadens the scope for audience participation through both visual as well as textual dissemination of research on this type of theme.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberISBN 978-3-89665-621-6
Pages (from-to)119-143
Number of pages200
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • saints
  • bones
  • Provenance
  • relics
  • Sculpture
  • skulls
  • wallpaper
  • embroidery

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