THE SECOND NUN’S TALE
There was once a young woman of Rome who valued her chastity so much that
she wanted to remain a virgin forever. However, she was given to a young man named Valerian in marriage. The woman prayed to God to keep her chaste, and on her wedding night, she told her husband that
she has a guardian angel that would slay anyone who violated her. Valerian did not believe her and the woman named Cecilia, tells him that he must go and be baptized by Holy Urban.
Urban was pleased to greet Valerian and rejoiced in the power that Cecilia
had to send the young man to be baptized.
Valerian saw a vision of an old man and believing this to be an important
portent, agreed to be baptized. When he returned to Cecilia, he saw her with an angel holding a crown of lilies and a crown of roses.
The angel said that the crowns had come from heaven, and only those that are chaste and hate evil can see them. The angel has the power to grant Valerian a wish and he requests that his brother should know the Truth and be baptized as well.
However, his brother objects. He doesn’t want to be an outcast like
Pope Urban, but Cecilia explains that it is not this life that is important, but the next, and so he agrees to be baptized.
There is a purge against the Christians and they are rounded up and sentenced to death, including Cecilia, Valerian and his brother Tiburce. During their imprisonment, they are able to convert others to Christianity.
When Cecilia is brought before the court, she answers all the questions
cleverly and profoundly, insulting the pagan gods of their captors.
She is sentenced to death by being placed in boiling water, but this fails, and then she is to be decapitated, but after three blows from the sword, she is still alive as the executioner was unable to sever her head. She lived for three more days, and many more were converted to Christianity.
Later, Pope Urban buried her body and proclaimed her a Saint.
Chaucer has merely translated this old legend from Latin to English.
Little is actually known concerning Cecilia. Her martyrdom is attributed to the reign of Severus around A.D. 230.
A Canon and his servant join the Pilgrims and the Host asks if they have any
tales to tell.
The Yeoman says that his master knows many stories concerning far off lands and distant shores. The Canon is clearly embarrassed by his servant and slips away, leaving the Yeoman to tell his story.