Saint Cecilia’s story, like many of the earliest saints’, is largely apocryphal and legendary in nature. According to tradition, Cecilia was born to a wealthy and prominent Roman family. Though she had consecrated her virginity to the Lord, she was married to a man named Valerian. It is said that she was “singing in her heart to the Lord” at her wedding. She confessed her promise of virginity to her new husband revealing that an angel protected her. Valerian would honor her vow only if he too could see the angel. Cecilia told him he would see the angel if he was baptized, which he went to do immediately. When he returned to her, he saw the angel beside her. Cecilia also converted Valerian’s brother, Tiburtius.
Unfortunately, it was a turbulent time in Rome for Christians. Valerian and Tiburtius were martyred for burying the bodies of Christians, which was illegal. Cecilia was also targeted for her faith. First authorities attempted to suffocate by locking her in the bath in her home and overheating the room. Some accounts say that she didn’t break a sweat and even began to sing. They then sent in an executioner to behead her, but he faltered and was unable to complete his task, only succeeding in mortally wounding her. She remained alive for three days before she died.
The saint’s body was exhumed twice, first by Pope Paschal I in 821, then by Cardinal Sfondrato in 1599. Both times her body was found incorrupt, the first saint to exhibit this extremity. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music and musicians.