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FEAST - A Saint for the Day (November 22): St. Cecilia of Rome


John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>


medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>


Tue, 22 Nov 2016 06:12:49 +0000





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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Cecilia of Rome is a poorly documented but much celebrated martyr of the Via Appia, absent from the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354 but attested liturgically from the sixth century onward, when her legend was already in existence in some form.  This makes her a virgin betrothed to a pagan husband, Valerian, who preserved her virginity and who, after his conversion to Christianity, actively proselytized along with her and became her companion in martyrdom.  The story, a typical late antique confection uniting several catacomb worthies in a single narrative, is transmitted by a Passio (BHL 1495) whose earliest witness is thought to be of the eighth or ninth century.  Re-told by not a few others, it includes among its _personae_ pope St. Urban I and the Roman martyrs Tiburtius and Maximus.  Highlights include Cecilia's singing to God alone during the musical merrymaking at her wedding feast, the angelic award of a crown of roses and lilies to each member of this couple after Valerian had accepted Christ, and Cecilia's botched execution in which she bled to death over several days after she had received three sword blows to the neck.

A resting place in a part of the cemetery of Callistus first used towards the end of the second century and rediscovered by de Rossi in the nineteenth was believed in the early Middle Ages to have been Cecilia's.  Paschal I (817-24) translated remains said to be Cecilia's from what the _Liber Pontificalis_ identifies as a different cemetery on the Via Appia (that of Praetextatus) to Rome's titular church of Cecilia, documented from 499 onward, which latter he also rebuilt.  We know it now as Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.  In all likelihood, the historical Cecilia was a former owner of the property where this church was located and was thus the latter's eponym but not its dedicatee; over time, as happened with the eponyms of other of Rome's titular churches, she will have come to be thought of as a saint.

Today (22. November) is St. Cecilia's feast day in many churches.

Some period-pertinent images of St. Cecilia of Rome (the suffix distinguishes her from St. Cecilia of Remiremont):

a) as depicted in the earlier to mid-sixth-century mosaics of the presbytery arch (carefully restored, 1890-1900) in the Basilica Eufrasiana at Poreč:


b) as depicted (third from left) in the heavily restored later sixth-century mosaic of the procession of virgin martyrs (ca. 560) in the nave of Ravenna's basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo:


another view: second from right in a smaller image with better color (courtesy of Genevra Kornbluth):


c) as depicted (second from left, after Paschal I) in the early ninth-century apse mosaic of Rome's basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere:


The correspondingly placed figure in the group at Christ's left is St. Valerian.

d) as depicted (at right; at left, Sts. Valerian and Tiburtius; martyrdom) in the late tenth- or very early eleventh-century so-called Menologion of Basil II (Città del Vaticano, BAV, Vat. gr. 1613, p. 201):



e) as depicted in a later eleventh-century fresco (betw. 1058 and 1088) in Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi (Monastery of St. Moses the Ethiopian) near Al-Nabk (Nebek; Rif-Dimashq governorate) in Syria:


f) as portrayed (lower register at center) in the later twelfth-century tympanum relief (ca. 1160-1170) from the north door of Köln's St. Cäcilienkirche now on display inside in the Museum Schnütgen:


Detail view (Cecilia):


g) as depicted (at right; at bottom center, St. Valerian; receiving floral crowns from an angel) in one of four panels of a full-page illumination in the late twelfth-century so-called Bible of Saint Bertin (ca. 1190-1200; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 5, fol. 40r, sc. 3A):


h) as depicted in an historiated initial "C" in a later twelfth- or early thirteenth-century monastic Office lectionary probably from southwestern Germany (Bremgarten [Kanton Aargau], Hermetschwil Abbey, Cod. membr. 6, fol. 256r):


i) as depicted (at right; at left, just a trace of St. Valerian; each receiving a floral crown and and a metal one from an angel) in an earlier thirteenth-century panel (by ca. 1230; bay 28) re-set in a window in the nave of the cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Bourges:



j) as depicted in a panel of a mid-thirteenth-century glass window (ca. 1245-1250; bay 202) in Strasbourg's cathédrale Notre-Dame:


k) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century Cistercian psalter (ca. 1260; Besançon, Bibliothèques municipales, ms. 54, fol. 12r):


l) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 161r):



m) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Valerian; receiving flowered crowns from an angel) in the late thirteenth-century Livre d'images de Madame Marie (ca. 1285-1290; Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 98r):


n) as depicted (upper register at center; at her wedding feast) in the late thirteenth-century Beaupré Antiphoner from a house of Cistercian nuns in the diocese of Cambrai (ca. 1290; Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, ms. W 760, fol. 173r):


larger image (grayscale):


o) as portrayed by Arnolfo di Cambio on his late thirteenth-century ciborium (1293) in Rome's basilica di Santa Cecilia in Trastevere:


p) as depicted (portrait [wearing a floral crown] and scenes) by the Master of St. Cecilia on an early fourteenth-century wooden altar frontal (ca. 1304) in Florence's Galleria degli Uffizi:


q) as depicted in an historiated initial "S", at the beginning of a set of prayers for her feast, in the earlier fourteenth-century Stowe Breviary (ca. 1322-1325; London, BL, MS Stowe 12, fol. 332r):


r) as depicted (martyrdom) in an earlier fourteenth-century French-language legendary of Parisian origin with illuminations attributed to the Fauvel Master (ca. 1327; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 183, fol. 96v):


s) as twice depicted (bottom at left: Cecilia and Valerian receive floral crowns from an angel; bottom at right: at Valerian's baptism) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of books 9-16 of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1335; Paris, BnF, ms. Arsenal 5080, fol. 166r):


t) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Andrew) as depicted in a panel of an earlier fourteenth-century glass window (ca. 1340) in the entrance hall -- an enclosed porch -- of the Basilika Mariä Himmelfahrt in Gurk (Land Kärnten):


u) as depicted (wearing a floral crown) by Bernardo Daddi in a mid-fourteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1347; from a dismembered altarpiece) in the Museo diocesano in Milan:



v) as depicted (martyrdom) in a mid- to later fourteenth-century breviary for the Use of Paris ("Breviary of Charles V"; betw. 1347 and 1380; Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 1052, fol. 572r):


w) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Valerian) in a mid-fourteenth-century copy, from the workshop of Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1348; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 309r):


x) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Valerian; receiving floral crowns from an angel) by the Master of the Pesaro Crucifix in a later fourteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1375-1380) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art:


y) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Valerian; receiving floral crowns from two angels) in an historiated initial "L" in a late fourteenth-century missal for the Use of Saint-Didier at Avignon (Avignon, Bibliothèque-Médiathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 138, fol. 278r):


z) as depicted (at left; at right, the still pagan Valerian) in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Rennes, Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 319r):


aa) as depicted (scenes) by Lippo d'Andrea in a very late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century fresco cycle (after 1394) in the vestry of Florence's chiesa di Santa Maria del Carmine:









bb) as depicted (receiving a laurel wreath from an angel) in an historiated initial "O" in the very late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Breviary of Martin of Aragon (Paris, BnF, ms. Rothschild 2529, fol. 408r):


cc) as depicted (lower register, second from left, with flowers in her hair) in an early fifteenth-century panel painting of Rhineland origin (ca. 1410; "The Garden of Eden") in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main:


dd) as depicted (at right, wearing a floral crown; at left, St. Catherine of Siena) by Beato Angelico in a predella panel, from a dismembered earlier fifteenth-century altarpiece (between 1417 and 1429), in the Gallery of The Courtauld Institute of Art in London:


ee) as depicted (wearing a jewelled headdress) in the Suffrages of the earlier fifteenth-century Hours of Catherine of Cleves (ca. 1440; New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, Morgan MS M.917, p. 308):


ff) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Valerian; receiving metal crowns from an angel) in a later fifteenth-century copy from Bruges of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay followed by the _Festes nouvelles_ attributed to Jean Golein (ca. 1460-1470; Mâcon, Médiathèque municipale, ms. 3, fol. 149v):


gg) as depicted (at center, between Sts. Valerian and Tiburtius) by Francesco Botticini in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1470 in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid:


hh) as portrayed (wearing a floral crown) in a polychromed statue over the central portal (choir side) of the later fifteenth-century jubé (ca. 1474-1485; this statue probably restored between 1842 and 1882) in the cathédrale Sainte-Cécile in Albi:


Detail view:


The statue in its larger setting:


ii) as depicted (lower register, second from left, after St. Valerian; receiving crowns [his floral, hers metal]) in a later fifteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1480-1490; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 245, fol. 179v):


jj) as depicted (right margin at bottom, wearing a metal crown) in a hand-colored woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century _Weltchronik_ (_Nuremberg Chronicle_; 1493) at fol. CXVIv:


kk) as depicted (wearing a floral crown) in the late fifteenth-century Isabella Breviary (ca. 1497; London, BL, Add. Ms. 18851, fol. 491v):



ll) as depicted (at right, wearing a floral crown) by the Master of the St. Bartholomew Altarpiece in the central panel, now in the Alte Pinakothek in München, of the dismembered early sixteenth-century altarpiece (ca. 1503) by which he is best known:


mm) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Odilia of Hohenburg) by the Master of Frankfurt -- a Flemish artist -- in an early sixteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1503) in the Historisches Museum Frankfurt in Frankfurt am Main:


nn) as depicted (at center; below her, St. Valerian; both wearing a floral crown; martyrdom) by Amico Aspertini in an early sixteenth-century fresco (ca. 1504-1506) in the Oratory of St. Cecilia in Bologna's chiesa di San Giacomo Maggiore:



oo) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Valerian) by Cornelis Engebrechtsz. in an early sixteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1518-1520) in the Szépművészeti Múzeum in Budapest:




John Dillon


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