Cavallini and Saint Cecilia

Saint Ceclia, patron saint of musicians, lived in Rome in the 3rd century AD. She died a martyr under the Roman Emperor (some claim). Several attempts were made at her murder but most failed. She was steamed in her bath but would not die. Three attempts had to be made at severing her head and all the while she sang songs of praise. It was said she finally died three days later, but only after having received the sacrament of Holy Communion.

In the church of Saint Cecilia, built above her home in Trastevere, Rome, is a statue of the saint’s body, positioned exactly as it was discovered in it’s tomb in 1599. It is sculpted most delicately in marble by Stefano Maderno. Her head is twisted and her neck is gashed. Her hands show three outstretched fingers on the right and one on the left, a symbol of the trinity.

If you want to think of her once a year, November 22nd is the date.

The most beautiful thing to see in the church is the fresco of Cavallini, originally hidden in the choir room along with the singing nuns. The scene covers three walls of the gallery and depicts The Final Judgment. It isn’t possible to understand it’s splendour without standing before it yourself. I suppose that has a little to do with the scale of the work. The painting was completed in 1293 and though much of the plaster has fallen away, a relevant amount remains. Each halo is slightly raised, tilting the human sized heads. The wings of the angels were inspiration for  some of my upcoming Christmas designs…



Filed under Painting, Sculpture

5 responses to “Cavallini and Saint Cecilia

  1. why did they want to kill her?

  2. She wanted to be a Christian and it wasn’t really allowed at the time.

  3. aah typical religious fantastics. : -) have you seen the film Agora? It’s an interesting take on martyrs, Roman times, the Christian vs science war 😀

  4. sharon swaine

    hey zosia
    do you know the work of andrei rublev?
    think you might like it
    theres a great film by tarkovsky

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