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St. Cecily


The popularity of St. Cecilia has kept her on the calendar of the Roman church, although nothing certain is known about her. Legends say that she was the daughter of patrician Roman Christians and had dedicated herself to God while she was young. She was married to Valerian, who converted when saw his bride conversing with an angel. His brother Tiburtius also saw the angel and converted. The brothers, with a man named Maximus, buried martyrs, and the three were caught, tried, and martyred. In some tales, Cecilia is with them at the time of their arrest; in others, she is caught burying the three men. Sentenced to be suffocated in her own bathroom, Cecilia survived. An attempt to behead her wounded her mortally. She is said to have asked Pope St. Urban I to make her house into a church. She died three days after the sword failed to behead her.

A woman named Cecilia, or something similar to it, founded a church in the Trastevere quarter of Rome; her body was buried in a place of honor in the catacombs of Calixitus, whence Paschal I translated them to the church of St. Cecilia. When the tomb was opened in 1599, the body was found incorrupt (it later disintegrated), and Madera sculpted a life-sized statue of her, which is now in the catacombs.

Karen Rae Keck


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