The basilica commemorates the aristocratic St. Cecilia, patron saint of music. One of ancient Rome's most celebrated Early Christian martyrs, she was put to a supernaturally long death by the emperor Diocletian around the year AD 300. After an abortive attempt to suffocate her in the baths of her own house (a favorite means of quietly disposing of aristocrats in Roman days), she was brought before the executioner. But not even three blows of the executioner's sword could
dispatch the young girl. She lingered for several days, converting others to the Christian cause, before finally dying. In 1595, her body was exhumed. It was said to look as fresh as if she still breathed—and the heart-wrenching sculpture by eyewitness Stefano Maderno that lies below the main altar was, the sculptor insisted, exactly how she looked. Time your visit to enter the cloistered convent to see what remains of Pietro Cavallini's Last Judgment, dating from 1293. It's the only major fresco in existence known to have been painted by Cavallini, a forerunner of Giotto.
Piazza Santa Cecilia in Trastevere 22, Rome, 00153, Italy