Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material. There is no trace of honor being paid her in early times. A fragmentary inscription of the late fourth century refers to a church named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545.
According to legend, Cecilia was a young Christian of high rank betrothed to a Roman named Valerian. Through her influence Valerian was converted, and was martyred along with his brother. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church.
Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.
In the fifth century, a basilica dedicated to St Cecilia was errected in Rome. From that time, devotion to her spread, along with accounts of her sufferings and martyrdom. She is praised as a model of Christian womanhood for her complete self-giving to God, which she lived through the dedication of her virginity. In more recent times, she became patroness of music.