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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale Lines 512-553 Summary
Cecilia says these words and others. And Almachius becomes angry, and orders men to lead her home to her house. "In her house," he commands, "Burn her in a bath of red flames." And as he orders, so it is done in deed. For they enclose her in a bath, and night and day fan a great fire under it. (They're trying to boil her to death.) During the long night and the following day, despite all the fire and the bath's heat, Cecilia sits cold, and feels no pain. It doesn't make her sweat a drop. But in that bath, Cecilia must lose her life: for Almachius, with wicked intention, sends his henchman to kill her in this bath. The henchman strikes Cecilia in the neck three times, but he isn't able to split her neck in two and cut her head off. And at that time, there is an law that says that no man is allowed to smite a fourth stroke. So the henchman can't try a fourth time to cut off her head. Half dead, with her neck all cut up, he leaves Cecilia lying, and goes on his way. The Christian folk who are all around Cecilia soak up her blood with sheets. For three days, Cecilia lives in this torment, but never ceases to teach the faith to those she has converted. To them she preaches. To them she gives her furniture and her things, putting them in the care of Pope Urban. She says, "I asked God to have respite for three days, and no more, in order to recommend these souls to you, and in order that I might make of my house here a church permanently." When Cecilia dies after three days, Urban fetches her body privately with his deacons, and buries it at night among his other saints. He calls her house the Church of Saint Cecilia, and makes it holy. In that house, to this day, in a noble manner, men serve Christ and his saints.
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