Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

7. Anonymous Poems, Heilagra meyja drápa, 18 [Vol. 7, 903]

[All]: Stanzas 18-21 celebrate the virgin martyr Cecilia, a Roman Christian of noble family who was supposed to have converted her pagan husband-to-be, Valerian, to both Christianity and chastity on their wedding night. Valerian was martyred for his Christian faith and Cecilia was brought before the prefect, Almacius. She refused to participate in an act of idolatry and was condemned to be stifled to death in a bathroom of her own house. She did not die, however, so a soldier was sent to behead her. He struck three blows that failed to kill her and she lingered three more days before eventually dying. Her cult was first associated with a church in the Trastevere quarter of Rome, but spread to most parts of Western Europe in the Middle Ages. There are several versions of an ON saga of Cecilia, all from C14th or later in their present form (Unger 1877, I, 276-97; Widding, Bekker-Nielsen and Shook 1963, 305; Wolf 2003, 101-22, 171-4) and there is considerable evidence for the popularity of her cult in Icel. churches, probably from the C12th onwards (Cormack 1994, 88-9). Her popularity in ‘the northern world’ is specifically acknowledged in st. 18/1.

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