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3 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About St. Cecilia, The Patron Saint of Music

The patron saint of music and musicians celebrates her feast day on November 22.

If you were born on November 22, chances are your name might be Cecilia, after the saint who is commemorated on this day.

My Pope Philippines cites three interesting facts about St. Cecilia on her feast day.

She converted hundreds of non-believers, including her husband.

Did St. Cecilia play a musical instrument?
‘Saint Cecilia and Saint Valerian’ by Alejo Vera (1834–1923), Museo del Prado (Photo from via Wikimedia Commons)

Born in the third century to a rich Roman family, Cecilia vowed to remain a virgin. But her parents married her off to Valerian, a nobleman and pagan.

On the night of their wedding, she confessed that an angel would harm him if he was intimate with her. It was only when Valerian was baptized by Pope Urban that an angel appeared next to his wife crowning her with a chaplet of roses and lilies. (Read: A Lesson From St. Lawrence: The Importance of Sharing Food)

Eventually, Valerian’s brother Tibertius would be baptized too, and Cecilia’s preaching would lead to the baptism of hundreds more.

She survived torture.

did-st-cecilia-play-a-musical-instrument
Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia by Maderno is a photograph by Weston Westmoreland which was uploaded on September 22nd, 2017. (Photo from Pixels)

Arrested for her conversions, she was thrown into a bathhouse and made to suffocate from huge flames. This proved futile as she barely broke into a sweat. An executioner then tried to behead her but failed even as he struck her thrice. (Read: Get to know the Life of St. Lucy, the Light Bearer Saint)

Cecilia survived the beheading for three days. As she continued to preach and convert in her final hours, believers wiped the trickling blood off of her using sponges and clothes.

She’s the patron saint of music and musicians.

did-st-cecilia-play-a-musical-instrument
(Left) Saint Cecilia and an Angel, oil on canvas by Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Lanfranco, c. 1617/1618 and c. 1621/1627; in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Right) Saint Cecilia by Guido Reni, 1606 (Photos from Art Media/Heritage-Images/Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikimedia Commons)

Theories abound as to why she was given this title. One source says it was because she sang in her heart to the Lord on her wedding day. Another source posits that she heard heavenly music in her heart during the wedding ceremony. Still another source says it’s because she sang to God as she lay dying.

In fine art, she is often depicted playing a musical instrument like an organ or viola. This former stems from a mistranslation that inadvertently credited her as the organist of her wedding. As for the latter, that didn’t exist during her time, and likely represents the period of the artist who rendered the painting. 

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