St. Sunniva was a saint of supposedly Irish descent, and a legend tells us that she was the daughter of an Irish king. Her birthdate is unknown, as is the date of her death, but it is assumed that she lived at the end of the 10th century (900 B.C). She is a patron saint of the western part of Norway. A type of saint in Catholicism, who among other things, is commonly identified with a particular geographical region. 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.
The legend of St. Sunniva tells the story of 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 preliminary 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.