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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Cecilia Timeline and Summary
Cecilia, a Roman noblewoman, longs to live her Christian faith by remaining unstained for her entire life. When she is forced to marry, she converts her husband to Christianity. Before her husband's brother converts, Cecilia teaches him about Christian theology. When her husband and his brother-in-law are about to be beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the Roman god Jupiter, Cecilia encourages them to stand up for their faith. The prefect Almachius calls Cecilia before him to question her on matters of faith. Cecilia calls him foolish and powerless and his gods worthless. She refuses to sacrifice to them. Almachius tries to kill Cecilia by having her boiled in a cauldron, but this doesn't cause Cecilia the slightest discomfort. Almachius sends an executioner to cut Cecilia's head off, but he is unable to do it after three attempts and is not allowed to take a fourth. Cecilia lives with her head dangling from her body for three days, preaching and teaching to her followers all the while. After her death, Pope Urban consecrates Cecilia's house as a church.