September 05, 2002

I was in a church in London in 1996 and was struck by this statue of a woman who lay on the floor either dead or in a posture of supine obedience. I took a picture though I didn't know the story behind it or whom it depicted (St. Cecilia). Then, last year, in the Catacomb of San Callisto, we came across that statue, at least another reproduction. Her body was found in this particular catacomb, a marytr beheaded during the Roman persecutions. The tour guide explains that there is a visible line on her neck (symbolism for how she died) and one of her hands one finger is pointing (symbolism that there is one God, instead of the Roman formulation of many gods) and her other hand holds out three fingers (symbolizing the Trinitarian three persons in one God).

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The form is so natural and lifelike, so full of modesty and grace, that one scarcely needs the sculptor's testimony graven on the base: "Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body." If it were art alone, it would be consummate art but Cicognara bears witness that in the perfect simplicity of this work, more unstudied and flexuous than his other productions, the youthful sculptor must have been guided solely by the nature of the object before him, and followed it with unswerving docility.

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