Saint Cecilia

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Saint Cecilia of Rome
St cecilia guido reni.jpg
Saint Cecilia by Guido Reni, 1606[1]
Virgin and Martyr
Born 2nd century A.D.
Rome
Died Sicily
Major shrine Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome
Feast

November 22

Patron saint of musicians and church music
Attributes flute, organ, roses, violin, harp, harpsichord, singing
Patronage Church music, great musicians, poets; Albi, France; Archdiocese of Omaha; Mar del Plata, Argentina

Saint Cecilia (Latin: Sancta Caecilia) is the patroness of musicians. It is written that as the musicians played at her wedding she "sang in her heart to the Lord". Her feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches on November 22. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Life[edit]

Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, even if the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material.[2] According to Kirsch, while it is a pious romance, like so many others compiled in the fifth and sixth century, the existence of the martyrs, however, is a historical fact. The relation between St. Cecilia and Valerianus, Tiburtius, and Maximus, mentioned in the Acts, has perhaps some historical foundation. Her feast has been celebrated since about the fourth century.[3]

It was long supposed that she was a noble lady of Rome who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus.[4] The research of Giovanni Battista de Rossi[5] agrees with the statement of Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 600), that she perished in Sicily under Emperor Marcus Aurelius between 176 and 180.

According to the story, when the time came for her marriage to be consummated, Cecilia told Valerian that she had an angel of the Lord watching over her who would punish him if he dared to violate her virginity but who would love him if he could respect her maidenhood. When Valerian asked to see the angel, Cecilia replied that he would see the angel if he would go to the third milestone on the Via Appia (the Appian Way) and be baptized by Pope Urbanus.

The martyrdom of Cecilia is said to have followed that of Valerian and his brother by the prefect Turcius Almachius.[6] 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.[2]

There is no mention of this saint in the Depositio Martyrum, but there is a record of an early Roman Christian church founded by a lady of this name.[7] The Church of St. 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; her remains were placed there in the ninth century and the church was rebuilt in 1599.[8]

Meaning of the Name[edit]

The name "Cecilia" was shared by all women of the Roman gens known as the Caecilii, whose name may be related to the root of 'caecus', blind. 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; a heaven for people to gaze upon.[9]

Patroness of musicians[edit]

John William Waterhouse, - Saint Cecilia, 1895
Saint Cecilia with an Angel, Gentileschi

The first record of a music festival in her honor was held at Évreux in Normandy in 1570.[8]

The National Academy of Santa Cecilia is one of the oldest musical institutions in the world. It was founded by the papal bull, Ratione congruit, issued by Sixtus V in 1585, which invoked two saints prominent in Western musical history: Gregory the Great, for whom the Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

Her feast day became an occasion for musical concerts and festivals that occasioned well-known poems by John Dryden and Alexander Pope,[10] and music by Henry Purcell (Ode to St. Cecilia), several oratorios by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (In honorem Caeciliae, Valeriani et Tiburtij canticum, and several versions of Caecilia virgo et martyr, to libretti probably written by Philippe Goibaut), George Frideric Handel (Ode for St. Cecilia's Day, Alexander's Feast), Charles Gounod (Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cecile), as well as Benjamin Britten, (who was born on her feast day). Herbert Howells' A Hymn to Saint Cecilia has words by Ursula Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi's "For Saint Cecilia", Op. 30, was set to verses written by Edmund Blunden, Michael Hurd's 1966 composition "A Hymn to Saint Cecilia"[11] sets John Dryden's poem, and Frederik Magle's Cantata to Saint Cecilia is based on the history of Cecilia.[12]

Legacy[edit]

Cecilia has become a symbol of the conviction that good music is an integral part of liturgy.[2]

The Sisters of Saint Cecilia are a group of women consecrated religious sisters. They are the ones who shear the lambs' wool used to make the palliums of new metropolitan archbishops. The lambs are raised by the Cistercian Trappist Fathers of the Tre Fontane (Three Fountains) Abbey in Rome. The lambs are blessed by the Pope every January 21, the Feast of the martyr Saint Agnes. The pallia are given by the Pope to the new metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29.

Located on the Isle of Wight, St. Cecilia's Abbey was founded in 1882. The nuns live a traditional monastic life of prayer, work and study in accordance with the ancient Rule of St Benedict.[13]

Cecilia's body was discovered to be incorrupt in 1599. She is known to be the first saint to be incorrupt.

Iconography[edit]

Cecilia is frequently depicted playing a viola, a small organ, or other musical instrument,[2] evidently to express what was often attributed to her viz., that while the musicians played at her nuptials she sang in her heart to God.[3]

Use in contemporary music[edit]

David Byrne and Brian Eno's song, The River, on the album, Everything that Happens Will Happen Today, also refers to St. Cecilia's Day. Paul Simon, of Simon and Garfunkel fame, wrote the song "The Coast" which references her when a family of musicians taking refuge in the Church of St. Cecilia.[14] There is also evidence that another of Paul Simon's songs was also in her honor, as "Cecilia" can be interpreted to refer to her and the frustration of song writing.[15] English lyrics were written for a Swedish popular song "Min soldat" and released as "The Shrine of Saint Cecilia". It was recorded by a number of American close harmony and doo-wop groups during the 20th century like Willie Winfield and the Harp-Tones. Others were the Bon Aires and The Andrews Sisters. The song was first released in the U.S. in 1941. Stalk-Forrest group (an early incarnation of Blue Öyster Cult) recorded a song called "St. Cecilia" on their album that was scrapped by Elektra Records. The album finally saw a limited release in 2003 through Rhino Handmade under the title St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings. Then in 2007 Radioactive Records released the album (on CD and vinyl) as St. Cecilia: The California Album – Remastered. In 2013, the Chicago band TURNT refers to St. Cecilia in their song "Girls": Saint Cecilia shows her psalms; And makes me laugh till I feel dumb; Before I realize it's wrong; The record needle lifts and she's gone."[16]

Use in Contemporary Poetry[edit]

The poem "Moschus Moschiferus", by Australian poet A. D. Hope (1907–2000), is sub-titled A Song for St Cecilia's Day. The poem is of 12 stanzas and was written in the 1960s.

See also[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Domenichino's Fresco Cycle in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome (1614)

The apse mosaic in the Church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere

References[edit]

  1. ^ St Cecilia by RENI, Guido
  2. ^ a b c d Foley O.F.M., Leonard. Saint of the Day, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media, ISBN 978-86716-887-7
  3. ^ a b Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Cecilia." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 24 Apr. 2013
  4. ^ Fuller, Osgood Eaton: Brave Men and Women. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008, page 272. ISBN 0-554-34122-0
  5. ^ Rom. sott. ii. 147.
  6. ^ The Life of Saint CeciliaGolden Legend article
  7. ^ "Saint Cecilia", "Lives of the Saints", John J. Crawley & Co.Inc.
  8. ^ a b "Who was St. Cecilia?", St. Cecilia Academy, London
  9. ^ 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).
  10. ^ Ode on St. Cecilia's Day (composed 1711) at, for example, www.PoemHunter.com
  11. ^ Publiched by Novello & Co., HL.14013968
  12. ^ "En bemærkelsesværdig cd" (in Danish). Udfordringen. 29 January 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  13. ^ St. Cecilia's Abbey, Benedictine nuns
  14. ^ Lyrics of "The Coast"
  15. ^ Cecilia will put song in your heart, Ideally Speaking (Jerry Johnston), Deseret News, 14 November 2009, p. E1. Johnston writes: " . . If you're a composer who needs a melody, talk to Cecilia. She'll put a song in your heart."
  16. ^ http://turnt.bandcamp.com Lyrics for the song "Girls"

External links[edit]