Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

St Cecilia |
The beloved story of Cecilia tells of a girl, a boy, and a martyrdom

St Cecilia is drawn from Chapter Nine, beginning on page 257, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit

Ships bear her name, and a famed New York choir honors this patron saint of musicians whose convert-husband respected her life-time virginity

St Cecilia - The beloved story of Cecilia tells of a girl, a boy, and a martyrdom

St Cecilia - The beloved story of Cecilia tells of a girl, a boy, and a martyrdom
A reclining sculpture of Saint Cecilia by Stefano Maderno in the church in Rome that bears her name and is said to be built on the site of her house in the bustling Trastevere district. For four hundred years the sculpture faced the wall, but was turned to face outwards during recent restoration.

In church stained glass windows, St. Cecilia is usually seated at the keyboard of a pipe organ. As the patron saint of musicians, she has given her name to schools and churches around the world. The Grace Line steamship, Santa Cecilia, sailed proudly in the 1940s, and the noted St. Cecilia Chorus performs each year in Carnegie Hall.

St. Cecilia, however, went down into Christian history, neither for elegance nor for an esthetic beauty, but for sheer heroism and deep commitment to Christ in the face of fierce cruelty. She is, in fact, one of the most venerated of Christian martyrs.

Her story first appears in full form in a fifth-century work, Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Cecilia. Though widely translated and circulated, it cannot be verified in the usual historical sense. She is said to have been born a Roman, early in the third century, the daughter of a senator, and a Christian from childhood. As a girl, she took a vow of chastity. When her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan boy named Valerianus, she told him that her body was guarded by an angel and that he must not take her virginity.

In love and curious, Valerianus went to see Urbanus, the bishop of Rome, about this, and was shortly convinced and baptized, as was his brother, Tiburtius. The two young men began carrying out works of charity among the Christians, distributing alms and reverently burying the bodies of those executed for the faith. When the Roman prefect, Turcius Almachius, learned of this, he sent an officer named Maximus to execute them, but they so impressed Maximus that he converted too and was killed along with them.

Cecilia buried her husband and brother-in-law before being taken prisoner herself. She had dedicated her home as a church, and she was condemned to die of suffocation in the bath of the house. After three days of heat and steam, she emerged unscathed. The executioner took his sword to her, striking her in the neck three times, but failed to kill her and fled in fear. She lived for three more days during which, according to tradition, she disbursed her worldly goods to the poor.

She was said to be buried in the catacomb of St. Callistus. However, when her remains were discovered by Pope Paschal I (a.d. 817—24) they were found in another cemetery, then moved to the church that bears her name, over the site of her house in the Trastevere quarter of Rome. When the church was being repaired in 1599, her body was reported to have been found and reburied, entire and uncorrupted.

And the music? According to the stories, on her wedding day, while praying that her oath of chastity would not be violated, Cecilia heard musical instruments–organs, in some translations–playing, and she began “singing in her heart to God.” Thus, though bloody and brutal her end, she became the patron saint of Christian musicians.

This is the end of the St Cecilia category article drawn from Chapter Nine, beginning on page 257, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense. To continue reading more about St Cecilia from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at