The FaÇade Windows

Gregory, Cecilia, & David

Photograph by Bill Blanchard


The great facade window, partially hidden by the organ loft, honors the patrons of liturgical music, Pope Gregory the Great, Cecelia, and King David.


The son of a Roman senator, Gregory was born in 540. He entered the service of the state as a young man and became prefect of Rome. In 573, he sold his extensive properties, founded six monasteries in Sicily and a seventh in Rome, and distributed much of his wealth to the poor. The next year, he entered his own monastery on the Caelian Hill as a monk, and was distinguished for his austere lifestyle. In 590, he was unanimously elected to the papacy. He accepted election and episcopal consecration under protest.


Given his own monastic background, Gregory was a vigorous promoter of monasticism and of the liturgy, particularly of liturgical music. Indeed, his name was so closely identified with plainsong that it came to be known as Gregorian chant. Among his writings, his Pastoral Care, which defined the episcopal ministry as one of shepherding souls, became the textbook for medieval bishops.


Gregory is only the second pope in church history to be called "the Great." The first was Leo I (440-461). Gregory died in 604 and was buried in St. Peter's Basilica. In our window, Gregory wears the triple tiara of the papacy, holds a quill pen as a sign of his many writings, and listens to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.


Gregory the Great is the patron of musicians, singers, popes, teachers, victims of the plague, and of England. Gregory was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Boniface VIII in 1295. His feast is observed on September 3.


Cecilia was a third century Roman martyr of whom almost nothing is known. A fifth century legend recounts that she refused to consummate her marriage because of a vow of virginity. When she also refused to sacrifice to the gods, an unsuccessful attempt was made to suffocate her. Then a soldier was sent to behead her; but three blows to the head failed to kill her. She survived half-dead for three days.


The origin of Cecilia's association with music seems to be found in a line taken from her Acts: "as the organ music (at her wedding feast) was playing, Cecilia sung (in her heart) to the Lord, saying: may my heart remain unsullied, so that I be not confounded." In our window, Cecelia holds a miniature pipe organ.


Her feast day is November 22. She is the patron of musicians, singers, and poets.


David was born in Bethlehem, possibly between 1040 and 1030 B.C. His story can be found in the First and Second Books of Samuel and in the First Book of Kings. According to these books, David was both musical and brave, the latter proven by his defeating the giant Goliath of the Philistines. Appointed armor-bearer to Saul, first King of Israel, he often soothed the king's moods with his singing and playing of the lyre.


Among his noted accomplishments were the unification of the twelve tribes of Israel into one nation; the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital; the conquest of the Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites; and the preliminary building plans for the Great Temple. His human failures are recorded as well. Despite his failures, he was considered a deeply religious man, a shrewd politician, a mighty soldier, a poet, a musician, and a great king.


The New Testament notes that Jesus is a true Son of David, indeed the promised Messiah, born of David's line. In our window, David wears a royal crown and plays a harp.


David's name means "prince" or "beloved one." He does not have a feast day in the Catholic Church, but a feast in his honor is observed in several of the Orthodox Churches. Considered to be the author of many of the psalms, he is regarded as the patron of poets.