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SANTA CECILIA – The gift of music

admin / January 15, 2021

We have already seen several basilicas in Rome called Trastevere, famous for its restaurants and for its characteristic buildings. There is another one that we should not miss, and it is the Basilica of Saint Cecilia, it is very dear to musicians because Saint Cecilia, together with Saint Gregory the Great are considered their heavenly patroness.

The Basilica of Saint Cecilia is one of the most beautiful and elegant Basilicas in the city of Rome. It was built at the site of the family home of Cecilia, martyred in the third century: “According to tradition, the woman, guilty of having tried to convert her husband Valeriano and her brother Tiburzio, was tortured for three days in the calidarium, in the basement of the church; on the third day, not yet suffocated by the very hot vapours, her torturers decapitated her. The Golden Legend tells that Pope Urban I, the witness of the torture, buried the body of the martyr among those of the bishops and consecrated the house transforming it into a church.  The building Titulus Ceaciliae as early as the 5th century, became a primitive basilica in the 6th century, thanks to S. Gregorio Magno. The basilica has undergone continuous reconstructions and additions: according to a legend, the saint appeared to Pope Pasquale I, revealing to him the exact point where her body, which had never been found, was buried; the Pontiff, in the 9th century AD, transposed it and erected the church in a basilical form on the site of the previous one. The cloister, atrium and bell tower were added between the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1599, during the renovation works, Cardinal Sfondrati had the tomb of Santa Cecilia opened, thus revealing the miraculously intact body, dressed in white and with wounds on her neck. Stefano Maderno was commissioned to sculpt a marble statue, reproducing the exact position in which the body of the Saint was found. From the 16th century, the basilica was continually restored, respectively by cardinals Giacomo Doria and Francesco Acquaviva, with the addition of the eighteenth-century monumental entrance that preserves the ancient columns of pink granite and African marble, by Ferdinando Fuga” (turismoroma.it). Until today, the statue of Saint Cecilia is one of the marvels of the Basilica.

There are many stories about Saint Cecilia, that was a subject for many painters, on how she was nominated as patroness of music or about the exact position of her body, that for some was different from what Maderno has reproduced in his famous statue. I would suggest visiting this beautiful church and the beautiful garden in front of the main entrance. Benedictine nuns have been in charge of this place for many centuries, and they tried to preserve the traditional Gregorian chant, in honor of the titular of the church, a gift that we have received from our glorious tradition.