Wednesday, November 22, 2023

A Motet by Palestrina for the Feast of St Cecilia

Palestrina was having a particularly good day when he composed this motet for the feast of St Cecilia, the words which form the antiphon of the Benedictus in her Office.

Aña Dum auróra finem daret, Caecilia exclamávit dicens: Eia, mílites Christi, abjícite ópera tenebrárum et induímini arma lucis. ~ Aña As dawn was fading into day, Cecilia cried out, saying: Arise, o soldiers of Christ, cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.

The Martyrdom of St Cecilia, ca. 1610, by Carlo Saraceni (1579-1620). Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Many thanks to a friend, Mr Peter Williams, for sharing with us some pictures taken at the basilica of St Cecilia in Rome today. Here we see the church’s façade and belltower from just inside the large courtyard in front of it. The large vessel on top of the fountain is an ancient Roman piece of work. 

As noted in this inscription, at the very end of the 19th century, Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, who held this church as his cardinalitial title, commissioned an extensive renovation of the crypt, which was decorated with beautiful new mosaics. The work was done in preparation for the Jubilee of 1900. (Card. Rampolla was also the Vatican Secretary of State, and archpriest of St Peter’s basilica.)
The main altar of the crypt, dedicated to St Cecilia.
The altars of St Agatha...
and St Agnes.
An altar dedicated to St Urban, the Pope who baptized St Cecilia’s husband Valerian, and brother-in-law Tiburtius; Maximus, who was converted by witnessing the martyrdom of the two brothers; and Pope St Lucius I.
A statue of St Cecilia.
The basilica during the principal Mass of St Cecilia.
The courtyard.
The moon shining over the Tiber.

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