Norway gets New Patron Saint
St. Sunniva was a saint of Irish descent, the daughter of an Irish king. She is
a patron saint of the western part of Norway. The worshipping of St. Sunniva
started up in connection with the monastery of Selje, a municipality in Sogn og
Fjordane. Sogn og Fjordane is a county in the western parts of Norway.
Who was St. Sunniva
The new patron saint was the daughter of an Irish king who inherited his
kingdom, and became wealthy as a result of this. A heathen Viking invaded
her kingdom causing her a lot of grief, because he wanted to marry Sunniva.
As Sunniva did not want to marry a heathen, she told her people that she was
forced to flee the realm, and those who wished to remain Christians needed to
do the same thing. A lot of people followed along, as she ended up on the
outskirts of the western coast of Norway. Among which were her brother,
Albanus, her friends, and some servants. She and her people finally resided
on a small island in Norway by the name of Selja. Her faith had made her put
a lot of trust in God on her long journey across the North Sea. She did not
have any ideas about a final destination, nor did she bring along any clothes
or weapons for the journey.
Sunniva and her group stayed for a long time on Selja, serving God, and living
off the fish they caught from the sea. Nearby Selja, there was a village. When
the inhabitants of the village went looking for several of the cattle they had
lost, they noticed some strangers on the island of Selja. The villagers
considered them to be villains, and told their earl Haakon about it. A group of
Haakon’s men were sent to kill the inhabitants of Selja. When those on Selja
noticed this, they went hiding in a cave, and prayed to God that the armed
men could not get hold of them. The cave collapsed and killed the people of
Selja, but they were also made unreachable for the earl’s men.
At a later stage, some merchants were sailing on the outside of the island, as
they saw a column of bright light from the island that reached up to the sky.
To satisfy their curiosity, they approached the island and noticed an
illuminated human’s head and a pleasant odour. The Christian king, Olav
Tryggvason and his men heard the story, and went to Selja to see for
themselves. There they collected the bones to some of those who had died.
They also found the remains of Sunniva and her brother Albanus, and their
bodies were complete. The bodies were enshrined, and Sunniva’s body was
sent to the city of Bjørgvin. Her brother Albanus’ remains were buried on
Selja, and a church was raised on the burial site, in his and her honour.