Caecilia, Saint

Caecilia, Saint

is the name of several females in the Latin calendar.

1. A Roman lady, and one of the four principal virgins and martyrs of the Western Church, commemorated in the Latin and Greek churches, Nov. 22. Of her life hardly any authentic account has come down to us. It is supposed that St. Cecilia was born at Rome in the 3d century, of parents who secretly adhered to the Christian religion. At a very early age she took the vow of chastity, and as she grew to womanhood became distinguished for her musical talent, mental graces, and personal loveliness. She could play skilfully on all the musical instruments of the day, but was so little satisfied with them that she set herself to invention, and produced the organ. Acceding to her parents' wish, she became, at the age of sixteen, the wife of Valerian, a young nobleman. Upon the nuptial night she informed her husband that she was guarded night and day by a glorious angel. Valerian, desiring to see the angel, was told that he could not unless converted to Christianity, to which he consented, receiving baptism at the hands of pope Urban. The prefect Almachius commanded him to abjure the faith, and upon his refusal to do so, had him, and his brother Tiburtius, beheaded. Soon after he sent to Cecilia, and commanded her to sacrifice to the gods. Upon her refusing to do so, the prefect gave orders that she should be cast into her own bath, after it had been heated to an intense degree. "But a heavenly dew falling upon the spouse of Christ refreshed and cooled her body, and preserved her from harm." A day and a night the prefect waited for news of her death. Then 'he sent one of his soldiers to behead her; but though the sword smote her neck thrice, the executioner could not cut off her head, and departed, leaving her on the floor of her bath, covered with blood. She lived three days, never ceasing to exhort the people to continue steadfast in the Lord, and died Nov. 22, A.D. 280. Urban and his deacons buried her in the cemetery of Caixtus, on the Via Appia, near the third mile-stone, and consecrated her house, which she had given to God, as a church forever. It is alleged that her body was found at Rome by Paschal I, A.D. 821, in the cemetery of Prsetextatus, adjoining that of Calixtus, and removed to the Church of St. Csecilia, which he was then rebuilding.

The legend of this saint has furnished the subject of several remarkable pictures, the oldest of which is a rude picture of her on the wall of the catacomb called The Cemetery of San Lorenzo, probably of the 6th or 7th century. The most celebrated of the modern representations of St. Caecilia is the picture by Raphael (Rome, 1513), and now in the gallery of Bologna. It is not known when St. Caecilia was first regarded as a patron saint of music, and in the ancient documents that have come down to us there is nothing to show that she ever made use of musical instruments; and, in fact, before the 15th century, she is seldom seen depicted with them. The tradition which connected her name with music is easily accounted for.

Pope Paschal built on to St. Ceecilia's Church a monastery, to which he gave a handsome endowment, providing that the religious should guard the bodies of the saint and her companions, and chant the praises of God around her tomb day and night (Baillet, Vies des Saints, ad diem Nov. 22). Such a service of song could not but kindle a legend-loving imagination, and the story grew that often Cecilia's own instrument was heard accompanying the vocal music. In England, at the latter part of the 17th century, her day was found a convenient one for holding an annual festival set on foot for the encouragement of music. For a more detailed account of St. Caecilia see Baronii Annales, s. an. 821; Bollandists, Ata' Sanctorum, April 14, p. 204; Ceillier, Histoire des Auteurs Sacres (Paris, 1859, vol. ii); Jameson, Sac. and Legendary Art, p. 583-600 (Lond. 1857, 3d ed.); Tillemont, iii, 259-689; Harper's Magazine, Nov. 1880.

2. Martyr at Carthage with Dativus, A.D. 304. 3. Called also Clara, is supposed to have lived in the 7th century, and to have been abbess of Remiremont, in Lotharingia, for a period of thirty years. She is commemorated Aug. 12. See Bolland, Acta Sanctorum, Aug. ii, 732.

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