Saint of the Day for Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
In the fourth century appeared a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian, written, like those of Chrysanthus and Daria, Julian and Basilissa, in glorification of the virginal … continue reading
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The first church on this site was founded probably in the 3rd century, by Pope Urban I; it was devoted to the Roman martyr Cecilia, martyred it is said under Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander, by the late fifth century, for in the synod of 499 of Pope Symmachus, the church is indicated with the Titulus Ceciliae. Tradition holds that the church was built over the house of the saint. The baptistery associated with this church, together with the remains of a Roman house of the early Empire, was found during some excavations under the Chapel of the Relics. On 22 November 545, Pope Vigilius was celebrating the saint in the church, when the emissary of Empress Theodora, Antemi Scribone, captured him. Pope Paschal I “rebuilt the church in 822, and moved here the relics of St Cecilia from the catacombs of St Calixtus.” More restorations followed in the 18th century. The Cardinal priest assigned to the Titulus S. Caeciliae is Gualtiero Bassetti. Among the previous titulars are Pope Stephen III, Adam Easton (1383), Thomas Wolsey (1515), Michele Mazzarino (1647), Giuseppe Doria Pamphili (1785), and Carlo Maria Martini (2012).
Art and architecture
The church has a façade built in 1725 by Ferdinando Fuga, which incloses a courtyard decorated with ancient mosaics, columns and a cantharus (water vessel). Its decoration includes the coat of arms and the dedication to the titular cardinal who paid for the facade, Francesco Cardinal Acquaviva d’Aragona. Among the artifacts remaining from the 13th century edifice are a mural painting depicting the Final judgment (1289-93) by Pietro Cavallini in the choir of the monks, and the ciborium (1293) in the presbytery by Arnolfo di Cambio. The Gothic ciborium is surrounded by four marble columns white and black, decorated with statuettes of angels, saints, prophets, and evangelists. The apse has remains of 9th century mosaics depicting the Redeemer with Saints Paul, Cecilia, Paschal I, Peter, Valerian, and Agatha. The ceiling of Cappella dei Ponziani was decorated God the Father with evangelists (1470) by Antonio del Massaro (Antonio da Viterbo or il Pastura). The Cappella delle Reliquie was frescoed and provided with an altarpiece by Luigi Vanvitelli. The nave is frescoed with the Apotheosis of Santa Cecilia (1727) by Sebastiano Conca. The church contains two altarpieces by Guido Reni: Saints Valerian and Cecilia and a Decapitation of Saint Cecilia (1603).