Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

"Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia, whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in the tomb. I have in this marble expressed for you the same saint in the very same posture"

This inscription, by Stephano Moderno, is on a marble slab in front of this statue of St. Cecilia, which he sculpted

Today's station church was the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. St. Cecilia is a virgin and martyr that has long been venerated in the Church. But, if you don't know much about her, here is a bit of information about the church, her life and her martyrdom:

The church and convent of Santa Cecilia in Trastavere in Rome was built over the home of St. Cecilia, an upper-class woman who owned a house on this site and was martyred in the 3rd century. Her body was found incorrupt in 1599, complete with deep axe cuts in her neck; a statue under the altar depicts the way it was found. Excavations of Cecilia's Roman house can be toured underneath the church.

Cecilia is one of the most popular of Roman saints. She lived in the 3rd century and the first legend of her life was written in the 6th century. A noblewoman from a senatorial family, Cecilia took a personal vow of virginity and pledged her life to God. Unfortunately for her, Cecilia's parents still married her off.

On her wedding night, Cecilia told her new husband (Valerian of Trastevere) about her pledge of virginity and persuaded him to be baptized. Valerian's brother Tibertius and another man named Maximus were converted and baptized as well, and the three men began a Christian ministry of giving alms to the poor and arranging for proper burial of martyrs. Eventually they became martyrs themselves for refusing to worship Roman gods.

After burying her husband and his brother, Cecilia was persecuted as well. According to her legend, she was first locked in the caldarium of her own bathhouse for several days. This failed to suffocate her as planned; in fact, she sang throughout the ordeal (Cecilia is the patron saint of music). Next a soldier was sent to behead her, but after three hacks with an axe she was still alive. However, she died of her wounds three days later. (

--See my post on the Catacombs of St. Callistus to see where St. Cecilia's body was found

The apse above the choir is decorated with a fine 9th-century mosaic on the theme of the Second Coming. It consists of seven standing figures - Christ in the center flanked by three saints on each side - against a background of a meadow with flowers, palm trees and sunset-lit clouds. Pope Paschal Iappears on the left of the mosaic, with a square nimbus indicating he was alive at the time it was made. Above his head is a small phoenix, symbol of resurrection, and next to him are St. Paul and St. Agatha. Christ is in the center, his left hand holding a scroll and his right hand raised in blessing. Above him is the Hand of God. On the right stand St. Peter, St. Valerian (Cecilia's husband) and St. Cecilia. Peter holds his keys and the latter two hold martyrs' crowns.

The exterior of the church

Interior nave of the church

This spacious house glitters built of varied enamels;This hall, which once in ancient time had been demolished,the generous prelate Paschal built to a better state,shaping it on a famous foundation;these golden mysteries resound with jewelled precincts;serene in the love of Godhe joined the bodies of Saint Cecilia and her companions;youth glows red in its bloom, limbs that rested before in crypts:Rome is jubilant, triumphant always, adorned forever. - Inscription below the apse mosaic

No comments:

Post a Comment