Monday, October 6, 2008

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

This peaceful looking sculpture of a decapitated Santa Cecilia (notice her perforated neck) was carved by Stefano Maderno in 1600. It sits at the altar of the church, which was built in her honor in the 5th century.

The story of Cecilia's death goes like this: officials attempted to kill her by locking her in her own overheated bathhouse. The attempt failed and she was then to be beheaded. The executioner attempted to decapitate her three times but it was no go. Cecilia survived another three days before succumbing and apparently she sang her way through the entire ordeal. Her body was found "incorrupt" in 1599, complete with deep axe cuts in her neck; the statue under the altar depicts the way it was found. Santa Cecilia is considered the patron saint of musicians, martyred sometime in the 2nd century.

The church has a crypt underneath it which may have been her home, including the bathhouse of ill-usage. The floors, walls and ceilings are covered with worn away mosaics and frescoes. The floors in particular blew me away with their illogical collisions of rubbed out and eroded patterns. I realized there may be a floor story in Rome - there are lots of under-church crypts due to its rising and sinking habits - allowing for many instances of bruised decoration.