St Sunniva

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A 10th century Irish princess and nun. According to legend, she set sail from Ireland with several companions in search of a haven in which to live lives consecrated to Christ. The group reached an uninhabited island called Seije off the west coast of Norway and settled there in caves, praying and living off fish.

One day a Viking called Jarl Haakon landed and started looking for them. They hid in caves. Huge boulders crashed down and blocked all the entrances and they died there.

When the Christian king Olaf Tryggvason had the cave excavated in 996, the body of Sunniva was allegedly found intact. Later a Benedictine monastery, Selje Abbey, was built at the site, the ruins of which can still be seen.

Around 1170 the legend of Sunniva was written down in a Latin hagiographic work titled Acta sanctorum in Selio. The legend is also recorded in the Old Norse-Icelandic tale Albani þáttr ok Sunnifu.

In 1170 her relics were moved to Bergen. Several churches, some of them ruined, still exist on the island.

Saint Sunniva is the patron saint of the Norwegian Diocese of Bjørgvin, as well as all of Western Norway.