CECILIA, SAINT: Roman maiden of noble family, who is said by different versions of the uncertain and contradictory tradition to have suffered martyrdom under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, under Alexander Severus, and under Diocletian. Her Acta relate that on the eve of her marriage she converted her husband, Valerianus, to Christianity. Angels appeared to both Cecilia and Valerianus charging them that her virginity should not be impaired. Tibertius, the brother of Valerianus, was then converted. The two brothers, refusing to sacrifice to the gods at the bidding of the prefect, Almachius were executed by the sword, and Cecilia was exposed to death in an overheated bath in her own house; when this means failed she too was beheaded. The remains of the three martyrs were placed in the catacombs of St. Calixtus, when Pope Paschal I., in 821, is said to have removed the relics of Cecilia to a church called after her name (Sta. Cecilia in Trastevere); her coffin of cypress wood was found there in 1599 (Baronius, Annales, ad an. 821). De Rossi discovered what is probably the original crypt of Cecilia, adjoining the papal crypt in the cemetery of Calixtus, and has attempted to prove that she belonged to the old patrician family of the Cæcilii; also that the date of her martyrdom was 177 under Marcus Aurelius. Toward the end of the Middle Ages Cecilia begins to be represented in art with musical attributes. The conception of her as patroness of the organ dates probably from Raffael's painting of 1513, now in Bologna, and may be based upon a misunderstanding of certain words of her Acta which refer to the (secular) musical instruments at her wedding, but were thought to indicate a particular instrument played by herself. The rôle which she fills among both Roman Catholics and Protestants as patroness of church music in general may be due to the founding of a musical academy at Rome by Gregory XIII. in 1584 under her protection and named after her.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: ASB, April, ii. 203-211; A. Bosio, Acta S. Ccili, Rome, 1800 ed. J. Laderchi, with title, Acta S. Ccili et transtiberina basilica illustrata, 2 vols., Rome, 1722; J. B. de Rossi, Roma sotterranea christiana, ii., pp. xxxii.-xliii., 113-161, Rome, 1887, Eng. transl., i. 315-333, London, 1879; Dom Guéranger, Ste. Cécile, Paris, 1874 (richly illustrated, but of little scientific value); C. Martin, Die heilige Cäcilia Mainz, 1878; Bertha E. Lovewell, The Life of St. Cecilia, in Yale Studies in English, vol. iii., New York, 1898.
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