Saint Cecilia (Latin: Sancta Caecilia), is a Roman martyr venerated in Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches. She became the patron of music and musicians, it being written that, as the musicians played at her wedding, Cecilia "sang in her heart to the Lord". Musical compositions are dedicated to her, and her feast, on 22 November, is the occasion of concerts and musical festivals.
According to the story, despite her vow of virginity, she was forced by her parents to marry a pagan nobleman named Valerian. During the wedding, Cecilia sat apart singing to God in her heart, and for that she was later declared the saint of musicians. When the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that watching over her was an angel of the Lord, who would punish him if he sexually violated her but would love him if he respected her virginity. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he could if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia and be baptized by Pope Urban I. After following Cecilia's advice, he saw the angel standing beside her, crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies.
The martyrdom of Cecilia is said to have followed that of her husband Valerian and his brother at the hands of the prefect Turcius Almachius. The legend about Cecilia's death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.
Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, although some elements of the stories recounted about her do not appear in the source material. According to Johann Peter Kirsch, the existence of the martyr is a historical fact, while some details bear the mark of a pious romance, like many other similar accounts compiled in the fifth and sixth century. The relation between Cecilia and Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus, mentioned in the Acts of the Martyrs, has some historical foundation. Her feast day has been celebrated since about the fourth century. There is no mention of Cecilia in the Depositio Martyrum, but there is a record of an early Roman church founded by a lady of this name, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is reputedly built on the site of the house in which she lived. The original church was constructed in the fourth century; during the ninth century, Pope Paschal I had remains which were supposedly hers buried there. In 1599, while leading a renovation of the church, Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati had the remains, which he reported to be incorrupt, excavated and reburied.
Meaning of the name 'Cecilia'
The name "Cecilia" applied generally to Roman women who belonged to the plebeianclan of the Caecilii. Legends and hagiographies, mistaking it for a personal name, suggest fanciful etymologies. Among those cited by Chaucer in "The Second Nun's Tale" are: lily of heaven, the way for the blind, contemplation of heaven and the active life, as if lacking in blindness, and a heaven for people to gaze upon.
Patroness of musicians
Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Lanfranco, Saint Cecilia and an Angel, c. 1617-1618 and c. 1621-1627, National Gallery of Art
The first record of a music festival in her honor was held at Évreux in Normandy in 1570.
Cecilia symbolizes the central role of music in the liturgy.
The Cistercian nuns of the convent nearby Santa Cecilia in Trastevere shear lambs' wool to be woven in the palliums of new metropolitan archbishops. The lambs are raised by the Trappists of the Abbey Tre Fontane in Rome. The lambs are blessed by the Pope every January 21, the Feast of Saint Agnes. The pallia are given by the Pope to the new metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29.
The famous luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume produces a line of violin and viola under the name St. Cécile with a decal stamped on the upper back.
Cecilia is frequently depicted playing a viola, a small organ, or other musical instrument, evidently to express what was often attributed to her, namely that while the musicians played at her nuptials, she sang in her heart to God, though the organ may be attributed to her erroneously, as the result of a mistranslation.
Alessandro ScarlattiIl martirio di santa Cecilia, oratorio donné pour la première fois le 1er mars 1708; Messa di Santa Cecilia(1720).
Georg Friedrich Haendel composed 2 works for Saint Cecilia with John Dryden : The Oratorio Alexander's Feast or The Power of Music (1736) and Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (1739).
Joseph Haydn, Missa Sanctae Caeciliae ou Missa Cellensis in honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae (1766-67).
Judith Shatin wrote The Passion of Saint Cecilia for piano and orchestra and Fantasy on Saint Cecilia for solo piano.
Fred Momotenko composed "Cecilia", a composition for full mixed choir, "a hymn to the past as well as to the future of the monastic tradition". The world premiere was at Koningshoeven Abbey on Saint Cecilia's feast day 2014.
Gerald Finzi composed "For St. Cecilia" for solo tenor, chorus (SATB) and orchestra. Setting of a work by English poet and author Edmund Blunden. Duration ca 18 minutes.
On the 2015 Feast of Saint Cecilia, Foo Fighters released their EP "Saint Cecilia" for free download via their website. The five song EP features a track named after the EP "Saint Cecilia". The EP was recorded during an impromptu studio session at Hotel Saint Cecilia located in Austin Texas.
Informator Choristarum (organist and master of the choristers) at Magdalen College, Oxford (1957–1981), Bernard Rose's unaccompanied anthem for SATB choir (with divisions) Feast Song For St. Cecilia (1974) is a setting a poem of the same name by his son, musician Gregory Rose.
Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist, Rik Emmett, composed the song "Calling St. Cecilia" on his 1992 LP Ipso Facto.
Paul Simon wrote the song "Cecilia" about writer's block.
Blue Oyster Cult release song “The Return of St. Cecilia” on their 2020 album the “The Symbol Remains”
The Chicago band Turnt (now known as Everybody All The Time) released a song called Girls which refers to St Cecilia in the lyrics. The song was first performed at Northwestern University's Mayfest Battle of the Bands on Friday May 24, 2013 at 27 Live in downtown Evanston.
^Goodson, Caroline J. (February 2007). "Material memory: rebuilding the basilica of S. Cecilia in Trastevere". Early Medieval Europe. 15: 2–34. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0254.2007.00197.x.
^Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, The Second Nun's Tale, prologue, 85–119. As the rubric to these lines declare, the nun draws her etymologies from the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine (Jacobus Januensis - James of Genoa - in the rubric).