born of noble Roman parents, and fostered from her cradle in the Christian faith, married Valirlan. One day she told him that an angel, “whether she was awake or asleep, was ever beside her.” Valirian requested to see this angel, and she said he must be baptised first. Valirian was baptised and suffered martyrdom. When Cecilia was brought before the Prefect Almachius, and refused to worship the Roman deities, she was “shut fast in a bath kept hot both night and day with great fires,” but “felt of it no woe.” Almachius then sent an executioner to cut off her head, “but for no manner of chance could he smite her fair neck in two.” Three days she lingered with her neck bleeding, preaching Christ and Him crucified all the while; then she died, and Pope Urban buried the body. “Her house the church of St. Cecily is hight” unto this day. (Chaucer Secounde Nonnes Tale.) (See Cecilia.)
Towards the close of the seventeenth century an annual musical festival was held in Stationers' Hall in honour of St. Cecilia.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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