1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cecilia, Saint

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20292081911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Cecilia, Saint

CECILIA, SAINT, in the Catholic Church the patron saint of music and of the blind. Her festival falls on the 22nd of November. It was long supposed that she was a noble lady of Rome who, with her husband and other friends whom she had converted, suffered martydom, c. 230, under the emperor Alexander Severus. The researches of de Rossi, however (Rom. sott. ii. 147), go to confirm the statement of Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers (d. 600), that she perished in Sicily under Marcus Aurelius between 176 and 180. A church in her honour existed in Rome from about the 4th century, and was rebuilt with much splendour by Pope Paschal I. about the year 820, and again by Cardinal Sfondrati in 1599. It is situated in the Trastevere near the Ripa Grande quay, where in earlier days the Ghetto was located, and gives a “title” to a cardinal priest. Cecilia, whose musical fame rests on a passing notice in her legend that she praised God by instrumental as well as vocal music, has inspired many a masterpiece in art, including the Raphael at Bologna, the Rubens in Berlin, the Domenichino in Paris, and in literature, where she is commemorated especially by Chaucer’s “Seconde Nonnes Tale,” and by Dryden’s famous ode, set to music by Handel in 1736, and later by Sir Hubert Parry (1889).

Another St Cecilia, who suffered in Africa in the persecution of Diocletian (303–304), is commemorated on the 11th of February.

See U. Chevalier, Répertoire des sources historiques (1905), i. 826 f.