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Cecilia was a young 3d century AD patrician woman who became a Christian.  Her parents remained pagan and ignored her vows to remain chaste.  She was betrothed to and married a young patrician pagan man named Valerian.  On her wedding night, she informed him of her vows and asked him to become a Christian and remain chaste with her, assuring him they would get  crowns in Heaven for their piety.   Valerian, though not at first taken with the idea, relented and entered the Church along with his brother Tibertius and a friend Maximus.  The group did charitable work and involved themselves with the Christian community.  The three men were put to death by authorities for refusing to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods of Rome.  Cecilia, after retrieving their remains for consecrated burial, was the next target of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  She was locked into the caldarium (steam room) of her own bath for several days but survived.  Next a soldier was sent to behead her.  After three chops with the axe, her head was still partially connected and Cecilia was still alive.  She died several days later from her wounds though.  During the confinement and decapitation attempts, she continued singing psalms to God.  (She is now the patron saint of musicians.)  Her house was in use during her lifetime as a domus ecclesiae (house church) for Christian services.  A small chapel was built there after her remains were deposited in the Catacombs of Callixtus.  In the early 9th century, the present church dedicated to her was built on orders of Pope Paschal I.  Her remains and those of her three converts were returned for entombment at the church.  It was noted that her body had remained uncorrupted.  In 1599, Cecilia's body was again exhumed to be placed in a different location in the crypt and it was noted that after 1400 years, her body remained uncorrupted.  This was considered proof of her sainthood.  The noted sculptor Stefano Maderno was called in to view the body and produce a statue of her in exactly the same position in which her body was found in repose.  His efforts are on display before the main altar of the church today along with a testimony to the condition he found her body.


N.B. Trastevere is a section of the city of Rome.  It consists of that area between the Janiculum Hill and the River Tiber, south of the Vatican Hill.  In early Christian days, it was a working-class suburb dominated by Syrian and Jewish immigrants.  




The facade of the church was renovated in 1725 and again in 1823.  Much of the renovation was most unfortunate in that some of the more aesthetic and artistic items of antiquity were covered over or replaced by items of lesser quality.  The original villa of Cecilia below the church was excavated in 1897 using very ham-handed archaeological practices that destroyed much of it's historical value.  The church was again restored in 1990.  The urn in the courtyard is of great antiquity.  The campanile was added in the 12th century AD.  




The interior view of the main altar in the apse.  The lighted reliquary in the confessio contains Maderno's sculpture of the uncorrupted Cecilia.




The mosaic in the apse shows (left to right) Pope Paschal, St. Agatha, St. Paul, Christ, St. Peter, St. Valerian, and St. Cecilia.  The square halo above Paschal is indicative that he was alive when the mosaic was made.  The model building he's holding indicates him as the builder.  Valerian and Cecilia hold the heavenly crowns that Cecilia promised Valerian.




Stefano Maderno's sculpture of the uncorrupted Saint Cecilia as she appeared when exhumed in 1599.  Written reports indicated that the congealed blood around the axe marks on her neck was still visible.




An inlaid disc of porphyry in the floor before the reliquary made by the sculptor Stefano Maderno in 1599.  The text reads:

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




The marble Gothic baldaccino (canopy) of black and white marble was added in 1292.




There are two popes (Urban I (222-30) and Lucius I (253-54)) interred in the crypt below the basilica along with Cecilia and her husband.  Upstairs there are a number of cardinals interred.  Most, if not all, were titular priests of the basilica.  The one above caught my eye due to the coat of arms of the Plantagenet royal family of England.  This is the grave of Cardinal Adam Easton of Hertford, England, who died in 1398 and was the titular priest of the basilica.




A mural probably from the original construction of the basilica depicting the Archangel Saint Michael.




The basilica is a "working" church.  A convent of Benedictine sisters is located next door.  Sometimes things are not always as accessible to the public when a church is in use as this one is.  The choir loft contains a priceless Cavallini fresco of The Last Judgment.  Viewing is only allowed at certain hours though.  I'll have to make this on the next trip.




The painting on the vaulted ceiling is The Apotheosis of Saint Cecilia by Sebastiano Conca, 1727.




One of the most unfortunate modifications of the 19th century renovation was the covering of the original marble pillars making them into piers.




A sculpture in one of the aisles.




One of many paintings of Cecilia probably dating back to the 16th century work.



An altar in the narthex (porch) of the basilica.




A common sight at many Roman churches which have been rebuilt a number of times over the centuries.  Fragments of marble that have been unearthed from former iterations of the church during archaeological explorations.  These are displayed in the narthex.