Tuesday, May 13, 2008


There are two stories of St. Sunniva.

(1) Sunniva was an Irish girl who was taken back to Norway back Vikings who were raiding Ireland in the 10th Century. Upon arriving in Norway, Sunniva persuaded her companions to commit suicide with her, rather than face a worse fate at the hands of heathens. Sunniva became the patron Saint of Norway.

(2) Sunniva was the daughter and heir of a 10th century Irish King. To escape an unwelcome marriage to a heathen King, Sunniva fled upon his arrival on Irish shores.

With a group of loyal followers, Sunniva landed an Selje and took refuge in a nearby cave. Unfortunately for the group, the locals thought that they were stealing their livestock (sheep or cattle), and an armed force was sent to bring them before Jarl Hakon.

Sunniva prayed that she and her companions would not be allowed to fall into the hands of these heathens, and thus rocks, caused by a landslide, sealed the entrance to the cave. Sunniva and her group were never seen alive again.

Many years later, under the Christian King Olaf Tryggvasson, the cave was opened (c.996). The body of Sunniva was found intact and uncorrupted. A Benedictine monastery was built upon the site in her honour.

According to later sources, Sunniva is accompanied by her siblings - her brother Saint Alban, and her sisters, Saints Borni and Marita.


Anonymous said...

A small - but important - correction: St. Olav and no other is the patron saint of Norway. St. Sunniva is patron saint of the town of Bergen. :)

sibyl said...

The Irish spelling of this name is Soinbhe, with the same pronunciation as Sunniva. (bh in Gaelic is pronounced v).