Vase Fountain Basilica Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Rome Italy

Why Is Santa Cecilia in Trastevere the home of the patron saint for music?

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The Port of Ripa Grande

Trastevere, immortalized and described in numerous movies, is an ideal neighbourhood for tourists and foreign students to do a city trip. Streets and restaurants of Trastevere paint the typical Roman postcard scenery. Although the crowds are concentrated to the east of Viale Trastevere, the west part is also very interesting because of the ancient history of a river port.

Piazza dei Mercanti lights plants Trastevere Rome Italy

On the west side of the Rione Trastevere, tourists can visit Santa Cecilia, a Roman church that was built on the house of patron saint for music. There was also the main port on the Tiber, the Port of Ripa Grande. Next to the port, the Papal State built the arsenals that initially were dedicated to the construction of galleys, the warships used in naval battles against the Ottoman Empire. Lepanto represents the most important battle where the Holy League of the Catholic powers managed to stop Muslim expansion thanks to the use of modern galleys in 1571.

Outside basilica santa Cecilia in Trastevere Rome Italy

After the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Papal State used the arsenals for the maintenance of its commercial fleet. During the 19th century, the complex became obsolete due to the construction of massive walls on the Tiber. In 1870, the Tiber reached 17 meters beyond its normal course, so that the water overwhelmed Rome and reached the Spanish Steps. The Italian government then gave up river ports to erect a high and strong embankment to defend the city in the event of a river in flood.

Outside hospital of the Most Holy Savior Ripa Grande Trastevere

The legendary story of St. Cecilia

Among the cobbled streets behind the old arsenals, you can see typical restaurants and trendy clubs. A larger square reveals the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of music art, instrumentalists and singers. The saint lived between the 2nd and 3rd centuries and was designated as the patron saint of music for what happened on her wedding day.

Gate Decoration Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Rome Italy

During the wedding, it is said that Cecilia sang her vow of chastity inside herself, accompanying herself to the happy music that was playing in her room. After the wedding, Cecilia confided to her husband Valerian the existence of an angel who watched over her. The angel would have punished the husband if he did not respect his wife’s vow of chastity.

Piazza di Santa Cecilia door windows Trastevere Rome Italy

Valerian accepted his wife’s virginity, converted to Christianity and received baptism from Pope Urban I on the first night of their marriage. That same night, Valerian saw Cecilia praying with her guardian angel. The husband asked the angel for proof of his nature and he made two wreaths of flowers appear which he placed on the heads of the couple.

Decoration Grave Skull Santa Cecilia in Trastevere Rome Italy

Valerian converted his brother Tiburzio to Christianity. The two brothers began to bury corpses of poor people of the city. But the law prohibited burying the corpses of Christians. Thus, the Roman authorities tortured and beheaded the two brothers. Then, Cecilia went to their tombs to pray.

Stefano Maderno Body of Santa Cecilia Trastevere Rome Italy

The authorities took Cecilia in front of the graves of her husband and her brother-in-law. They took her to the basement of her house to die of suffocation in her calidarium. But the woman resisted, as she clung to her life. Her persecutors then decided to behead her. Despite three cuts, her head remained in her place and Cecilia died of bleeding.

Chiesa Santa Maria in Cappella outside Trastevere Rome Italy

Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

Pope Urban I buried Cecilia in the catacombs of San Callisto. In the fifth century, the ecclesiastical authorities built the church dedicated to Santa Cecilia on the ruins of the house where she married and was martyred. In the year 821, legend has it that the saint appeared in a dream to Pope Paschal I and revealed him where her body was. Thus, the saint’s body was found and carried from the catacombs to the church. To house her body, the church was enlarged and was given the title of Basilica.

Entrance basilica santa Cecilia in Trastevere Rome Italy

The church contains valuable works. For example, the Tuscan architect and sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio built the ciborium in the shape of a canopy in the Gothic style. Stefano Maderno sculpted the marvelous statue of Santa Cecilia in 1600. It is said that in those years the workers found the tomb of the saint during the renovation of the basilica. Inside the coffin, her whole body showed up almost the same as when she died. The sculptor was commissioned to reproduce the body as it had been found, with the wounds on the neck and the white dress.

Inside basilica santa Cecilia in Trastevere Rome Italy

The National Academy of Santa Cecilia, one of the most important classical music schools in the world, is dedicated to the saint. Pope Sixtus V established it as a congregation for both artistic and charitable purposes in 1585. In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI decreed the transformation into an academy which today boasts an orchestra and choir of international importance. 70 full professors and 30 honorary professors make up the academic body.

Piazza dei Mercanti Restaurant Trastevere Rome Italy

Church of Santa Maria in Cappella

Less than two hundred meters from the Basilica of Santa Cecilia, there is the church of Santa Maria in Cappella. The small church dates back to the eleventh century. On the door jamb you can see a mosaic attributed to the Ticino architect Francesco Borromini. The mosaic would have been used as a seal for the holy door of the jubilee of 1625.

Seal Jubilee 1625 Barberini Bees Mosaic

Pope Urban VIII of the Barberini family whose symbol is bees announced the jubilee. The seal still bears the signs of the breakage carried out by Pope Innocent X to reopen the holy door on the eve of the jubilee of 1650.

Windows Religion Trastevere Rome Italy

In 1391, next to the church, Andreozzo Ponziani founded the hospital of the Most Holy Savior. In the following years, Santa Francesca Romana who was the daughter-in-law of Andreozzo Ponziani took over the management of the hospital. Today there is still a nursing home dedicated to her. Francesca Romana was an important figure in the city life of the time.

Via Jandolo Instagram Spotify Trastevere Rome Italy

The saint came from a noble family and she offered herself as an oblate along with nine of her companions after numerous family vicissitudes. In these years Francesca Romana founded the congregation of the oblates of St. Frances of Rome. She and her Oblate companions lived in common and dedicated themselves to serving God without making a vow of enclosure.

hospital of the Most Holy Savior Trastevere Rome Italy

Written by Enrico, Translated by Hua and Photo from Hua

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