The Basilica of S. Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, stands on the family home of the noble Cecilia, martyred around 230 AD. According to the tradition, the woman, guilty of having tried to convert her husband Valeriano and her brother Tiburzio, was tortured for three days in the calidarium, in the basement of the church; the third day, not yet suffocated by the very hot vapours, her torturers decapitated her. The Golden Legend tells that Pope Urban I, the witness of the torture, buried the body of the martyr among those of the bishops and consecrated the house transforming it into a church. Titulus Ceaciliae as early as the 5th century, the building became a primitive basilica in the 6th century, thanks to S. Gregorio Magno.
The basilica has undergone continuous reconstructions and additions: according to a legend, the saint appeared to Pope Pasquale I, revealing to him the exact point where her body, which had never been found, was buried; the Pontiff, in the 9th century AD, transposed it and erected the church in a basilical form on the site of the previous one.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, the cloister, atrium and bell tower were added. In 1599, during the renovation works, Cardinal Sfondrati had the tomb of Santa Cecilia opened, thus revealing the miraculously intact body, dressed in white and with wounds on her neck. Stefano Maderno was commissioned to sculpt a marble statue, reproducing the exact position in which the body of the Saint was found.
From the 16th century, the basilica was continually restored, respectively by cardinals Giacomo Doria and Francesco Acquaviva, with the addition of the eighteenth-century monumental entrance that preserves the ancient columns of pink granite and African marble, by Ferdinando Fuga.
The interior, divided into three naves, presents on the vault the fresco with the Apotheosis of Saint Cecilia by Sebastiano Conca (1727) but it is in the presbytery that the major masterpieces are concentrated.
The ciborium in black and white marble is a Gothic work, signed, by Arnolfo di Cambio (1293); in the apse the mosaic from the 9th century representing the blessing Redeemer with saints Paolo, Cecilia, Pietro, Valeriano and Agata together with Pope Pasquale I depicted with the model of the church; under the altar, the famous statue of Santa Cecilia by Stefano Maderno (1600), the Last Judgment by Pietro Cavallini, painted at the end of the 13th century and rediscovered in 1900. At the centre of the courtyard, there is a cantharus, a large Roman vase.
In the basements of the church, some rooms referring to a thermal plant and ancient dwellings have been brought to light, of which the black and white mosaic floors remain.
Pope Pasquale I also founded a monastery, where, over the centuries, different monastic presences followed one another. Originally, the Monastery was inhabited by the Umiliati, dedicated to the art of wool, whose order was suppressed in the 16th century. The Monastery was re-founded on 25 June 1527, and entrusted to a group of Benedictine nuns.
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The Basilica, the excavations and the crypt can be visited
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