Saint Sunniva of Bergen

detail of a marble statue of Saint Sunniva of Selja; sculpture by Arne Meland, date unknown; harbour of Selje, Norway; photographed on 12 September 2015 by Atle Råsberg; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlso known as

  • Sunniva of Norway
  • Sunniva of Selja
  • Sunnifa….
  • Synnöve….



Daughter of a tenth century Irish king. To avoid an arranged marriage with an invading pagan king, she, her brother Alban, and several female companions fled her home to settle in a cave on the island of Selje off the Norwegian coast. Some time later, Viking locals decided that the group was stealing cattle, and sent an armed band to attack them. When they arrived, they found the cave sealed by a landslide; none of the group of exiles were ever seen alive again. Years later, around 995, after reports of strange lights in the area, King Olaf Tryggvason had the cave opened; Sunniva’s body was found incorrupt, and the king built a church there in her honour.

Sunniva’s story was retold and revised over the years, often combining elements of Saint Ursula‘s history. Sometimes she is a nun leading a group of pious sisters seeking solitude. According to post-Reformation sources, Sunniva had two sisters, Saint Borni and Saint Marita, and her brother was Saint Alban.



Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Sunniva of Bergen“. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 October 2018. Web. 22 February 2020. <>