Cecilia, St.

, the reputed patroness of music, was a Roman virgin of distinguished birth, who lived in the second century. She was eminent for her piety, and had vowed virginity, but contrary to her inclinations-, was espoused by her parents to a heathen nobleman of the name of Valerian, whom she is said to have kept from her bed, by informing him that she had an angel appointed to protect her, and she engaged that Valerian should see this | angel, in case he would prepare himself for such a favour by becoming a Christian. Valerian consented, saw the angel, abstained from Cecilia as a wife, and was converted along with his brother Tiburtius. Valerian and Tiburtius suffered martyrdom, and Cecilia was honoured with the same death some days after. These martyrdoms are variously placed under M. Aurelius, between 176 and 180, and under Alexander Severus, about 231. The body of St. Cecilia was found by pope Pascal I. in the cemetery of a church called by her name, which occurs as early as the sixth century; and her body and her husband’s, found in the same place, were translated in 821 to a monastery founded by pope Pascal in honour of the martyrs Tiburtius and Maximus, near the church of St. Cecilia in Rome, usually called in Trastevere, to distinguish it from two others dedicated to the sama saint.

Musical and other historians have not been able to assign any better reason for honouring St. Cecilia as the patroness of music, than what may be found in her “Acts,” which still exist in Surius, but are now considered as of no authority. Yet as they were credited in more credulous times, painters fixed upon organs as the appropriate emblem of this saint; musicians chose her for their patroness, and poets have described her as the in ven tress of the organ, and as charming angels to leave their celestial spheres, in order to listen to her harmony. The earliest notice of her as the tutelar saint of music seems to have been in the works of the great painters of the Italian school; some representing her as performing on the harp, and others on the organ. Raphael, in his celebrated portrait of the saint, has placed in her hands a column of organ pipes, or rather the front of a portable instrument called the regals, which in Roman catholic times used to be carried by one person and played by another in processions. But of the celebration of her birth-day by assemblies of musicians, we have been able to discover no instance earlier than the latter end of the seventeenth century, when there was a rage among the votaries of music for celebrating the birth-day of this saint, November 22, not only in London, but in all the considerable cities and provincial towns in the kingdom, where music was cultivated. Dryden’s Ode to St. Cecilia has led Mr. Malone into a prolix and probably very accurate history of this saint, and into a chronological account of all the great Cecilian festivals held in London from 1683 | to 1740, with a list of all the odes written expressly for the celebration of St. Cecilia, by whom written, and by whom set to music. 1

1

Butler’s Lives of the Saints.—Burney and Hawkins’s Hist. of Music. Gent. Mag. vol. LXIII. p. 25 and 33.