25 February - 'The Sunniva legend and the Cistercian authorship of the earliest Norwegian hagiography

School of History, UCC

Dr Alexander O'Hara, School of Religion, Trinity College Dublin

Thursday 25 February 2021, 16.00 (4 PM)
The paper will be delivered via Ms TEAMS. Please, contact Dr Jérôme aan de Wiel, School of History, UCC, to obtain a Teams link: j.aandewiel@ucc.ie

Paper With the translation of the relics of Saint Sunniva from the Norwegian island of Selja to the town of Bergen in 1170 a hagiographical account of the saint’s life and martyrdom was produced for liturgical use in the new cathedral in Bergen. In her urban and royal environment, Sunniva came to be venerated as the patron saint of Bergen. This talk considers the political and ecclesiastical contexts at this time when Norway was beset by a violent period of Civil War and looks at the possible role that the Cistercians may have played in the writing of the hagiographical legend of this enigmatic Irish princess from the West. It proposes that Abbot Ranulf of Lysa, an English Cistercian abbot of Lysa, a community of Cistercian monks just south of Bergen, may be the author both of the earliest Latin hagiographical account of Sunniva, the Acta sanctorum in Selio, and that of Saint Olav, the Passio Sancti Olavi, written around the same time to promote the cults of both saints in their respective dioceses of Bergen and Nidaros. Both Sunniva and Olav would in time be venerated as the patron saints of Norway. Dr Alexander O’Hara is a lecturer and Fellow in the School of Religion, Trinity College Dublin. A historian of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages specialising in monastic history and theology, the medieval cult of the saints and medieval Latin literary culture he has held Research Fellowships at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, the Moore Institute NUIG and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton prior to coming to Trinity. He is the author of Jonas of Bobbio and the Legacy of Columbanus: Sanctity and Community in the Seventh Century (Oxford University Press, 2018), the editor of Columbanus and the Peoples of Post¬-Roman Europe (Oxford University Press, 2018), and translator of Jonas of Bobbio: Life of Columbanus, Life of John, and Life of Vedast (Liverpool University Press, 2017). He is co-editor of St Sunniva: Irish Queen, Norwegian Patron Saint (Bergen, 2021), a collected volume concerning the medieval cult of the Irish saint Sunniva, patron of Bergen and Western Norway.

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

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