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November 22 St. Cecelia's Feast day

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

St. Cecelia is well-known as the patron saint of music and musicians and is often pictured playing the organ which many consider incongruous since St. Cecelia died in the fifth century and the models incorporated in portraits of the saint are medieval or renaissance versions. . (The organ was invented by the Greeks (who called it the hydralulos) in the third century B.C.This however, is only a minor inconsistency in the life of St. Cecelia whose very existence some scholars question.

The romanticized mythology about Cecelia's life is similar to the lives of other women saints in the early centuries of Christianity. According to her biographers, she was married to a Roman pagan named Valarian and on their wedding night she told Valarian that she had to remain a virgin and that if he attempted to have sex with her, an angel would do bad things to him. Not only did her promise of angelic retribution result in keeping her virginity in tact, but the threat also resultedin Valarian's' conversion. Cecelia allegedly also converted Valarian's brother, Tiburtius, and both brothers were subsequently beheaded.

Cecelia was condemned to be boiled to death. The Romans apparently had a penchant for applying culinary techniques to the extinction of the Christians. After a day and a half in boiling water, Cecelia was still alive and an executioner was discharged to behead her. He axed her in the neck three times before she died while Cecilia's sang to God, s which is the basis for her musical connection..

Some of the music dedicated to Cecilia includes Benjamin Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia , A Hymn for St Cecilia by Herbert Howells, a mass by Alessandro Scarlatti, Charles Gounod's Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cécile, Hail, bright Cecilia! by Henry Purcell, and an opera, Cecilia, by Licinio Refice, SJ (1934).The American pop-rock band Jars of Clay opened their 2007 Christmas Songs album with an instrumental track titled "The Gift of St. Cecelia."

There are many musical organizations named after St. Cecelia. One of the oldest is the ultra-elitist St. Cecelia Society of Charleston which was founded in 1735 and is still going strong, due in part to their famous punch that they serve for their annual fete at the Hibernian Hall in Charleston.

St. Cecelia's Punch


6 lemons, sliced and seeded

1 quart of brandy 1 pineapple, pealed, cored, and sliced 1-1/2 lbs sugar

3 cups of water

1 quart of tea 1 pint of rum 1 quart apricot brandy 2 quarts of champagne 2 quarts club soda


  1. Cover lemons with brandy and allow to steep for 24 hours.

  2. Dissolve sugar in water in a saucepan over high heat to make a sugar syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

  3. Place pineapple in punch bowl. Add lemon and brandy mixture, sugar syrup, tea, rum, and apricot brandy. When ready to serve, add ice, champagne and soda.

Makes 80 to 90 punch cups

© 2011 Gordon Nary


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