St. Cecilia – Table of Contents
- Early Life
- Related Saints
- Related Prayers
- Birth: 200-230 AD, Rome
- Location: Rome
- Death: 222-235 AD, Sicily
- Beatification: N/A (Before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints)
- Canonized: Unknown (Before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints)
- Feast Day: November 22nd
- Patron Saint of: Musicians and singers
- She is one of the seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
Saint Cecilia was a Roman virgin martyr and is venerated as the patron of music and musicians. As musicians played at her wedding, Cecilia “sang in her heart to the Lord.” Musical compositions are dedicated to her, and her feast day is on November 22nd. She is also known as Cecilia of Rome.
She reminds us of the power of music to praise God and to bring comfort to those who are suffering. Her story helps us realize the power of utilizing art to transcend suffering, focus on beauty, and to connect us with God.
Early Life and Background
St. Cecilia was born into an affluent Roman family in the third century. Her name is included in the Roman Canon alongside the names of other early Church martyrs.
Tradition tells us that Cecilia converted to Christianity and made a vow of virginity, but her parents forced her into marriage with a pagan nobleman named Valerian. On her wedding day, while instruments played, Cecilia sang to God in her heart. It’s one of the reasons why Cecilia is known as the patroness of music, musicians, and poets.
On their wedding night, Cecilia revealed to Valerian her conversion to Christianity and her vow of virginity. Valerian sought to understand the faith and converted soon after he found out. His brother followed suit and converted as well.
It is said that Valerian witnessed an angel visiting Cecilia as she prayed in her chamber at night. The angel held two crowns of roses and lilies, which he placed on their heads, and then disappeared.
Soon after their conversions, Valerian and his brother committed themselves to burying Christian martyrs that were killed at the hand of Turcius Almachius, the prefect of the city. They were arrested and subjected to torture and execution for refusing to deny their faith.
Through St. Cecilia’s preaching of Christianity, she converted four hundred people which caused her to be arrested and tortured. Miraculously, through the intense heat of blazing fire, Cecilia’s body showed no signs of perspiration, so Almachius demanded that her head be severed. Crowds came to her as she preached to them or prayed until she passed away.
St. Cecilia’s Miraculous Preservation
In 822, Pope Pascal I wished to have St Cecilia’s remains buried in a church dedicated to her but did not know her grave’s location. Miraculously, she appeared to him in a vision and identified the site. Centuries later in 1599, her body was exhumed and discovered to be remarkably preserved.
St. Cecilia’s preserved body became an object of veneration and pilgrimage, and her tomb in the catacombs of Rome became a place of devotion for many Christians. Her story has been depicted in art, music, and literature over the centuries.
Legacy of St. Cecilia in Art
There are over 2,000 known works of art depicting St. Cecilia, including paintings, sculptures, stained glass windows, operas, poems, and novels. Here are some specific examples of how Saint Cecilia’s legacy has been depicted in art, literature, and music:
- In the painting “Saint Cecilia” by Raphael (1514), she is depicted playing a spinet while surrounded by angels. The painting is a beautiful and moving depiction of the power of music to inspire and uplift the soul.
- In the poem “Ode to Saint Cecilia” by John Dryden (1687), Saint Cecilia is praised for her beauty, her faith, and her love of music. The poem is a beautiful and moving tribute to the power of music to inspire and uplift the soul.
- Chaucer commemorates Saint Cecilia in his “Second Nun’s Tale.”
- John Dryden’s poem “A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day” was set to music by Handel in his “Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day.”
- Charles Gounod composed the Saint Cecilia Mass.
- Benjamin Britten composed the “Hymn to Saint Cecilia.”
Saint Cecilia’s legacy continues to inspire and uplift us. She is a reminder that music is a powerful force for good, and that it can be used to praise God, and to bring beauty into the world.
St. Cecilia’s Prayers
St. Cecilia is a powerful intercessor for those who are involved in music and the arts. She is able to help musicians improve their skills, find inspiration, and overcome challenges.
If you are a musician or a poet, or if you simply enjoy music, you can turn to St. Cecilia for her help and inspiration. You can say prayers to her like:
O glorious saint, who chose to die
Instead of denying your King,
We pray you please to help us
As His fair praise we sing!
We lift our hearts in joyous song
To honor Him this way,
And while we sing, remembering,
To sing is to doubly pray.
At once in our hearts and in our tongues
We offer double prayer
Sent heavenward on winged notes
To praise God dwelling there.
While in our hearts and tongues we try
With song to praise God twice,
We ask dear saint, to help us be
United close to Christ!
Dear Saint Cecilia, one thing we know for certain about you is that you became a heroic martyr in fidelity to your divine Bridegroom.
We do not know that you were a musician but we are told that you heard Angels sing.
Inspire musicians to gladden the hearts of people by filling the air with God’s gift of music and reminding them of the divine Musician who created all beauty.
St. Cecilia Quotes
- “Arise, soldiers of Christ, throw away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”
- “Let my heart and my body be undefiled, O Lord, that I may not be confounded.”
- “Men call me Cecilia, but my most beautiful name is that of Christian”
- Basilica of Saint Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome
- Saint Cecilia & Holy Agony Church in New York City (East Harlem)
- St. Cecilia Church (Hialeah, Florida)
- Saint Cecilia Parish (Boston, Massachusetts)
- St. Cecilia Church (Mt. Prospect, Ill.)
- St. Cecilia’s (Glen Carbon, Ill.)
- St. Cecilia’s Cathedral (Omaha, Nebr.)