The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Where It All Goes Down
Late Classical Pagan Rome
"The Second Nun's Tale" takes place at a time in history when Christianity was just getting started. What this means for our story is that the powers that be (for example, Almachius), have not embraced Christianity and are actively persecuting it. The saints at this time period demonstrated their holiness in a very specific way – through martyrdom. This means of demonstrating holiness was not available to most medieval Christians, who lived in a society in which everybody was already Christian – there were no evil pagan tyrants just waiting to torture them. But they enjoyed reading stories saints' lives from the late classical period in order to watch the underdog Christians demonstrate their valor in the face of odds that must have seemed insurmountable. For many of them, these saints' steadfastness in the faith was evidence that God had been with his Church from the beginning, strengthening its members and providing them with the means to grow Christianity into its present form.