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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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THE SECOND NUN'S TALE

To combat idleness, which encourages vice and the devil, the Second Nun offers a translation of the life of St. Cecilia. She invokes a prayer to the Virgin Mary to help her present the tale.

Cecilia of Rome wishes to remain a virgin but is promised in marriage to Valerian, a pagan. On their wedding night she tells him anyone who touches her will be killed by her guardian angel. He wants proof (wouldn't you!), but she says he must first go to Pope Urban and be baptized. He goes and a vision appears. Convinced, he returns to find an angel with roses and lilies with Cecilia. Eventually Valerian's brother is also baptized, and both are caught and die martyrs' deaths. Cecilia too is supposed to die but she lives for three days after the pagans try to cut off her head. Pope Urban buries and canonizes her, and turns her house into a church.


The tale is in the popular form of a legend about a saint's life, as you might expect from a nun. This version of St. Cecilia's life is from Latin, and includes devices often found in legends, such as derivations of the meaning of the saint's name, which in this case are mostly wrong.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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