Saint Lucy
Overview
Saint Lucy also known as Saint Lucia, was a wealthy young Christian martyr
Christian martyrs
A Christian martyr is one who is killed for following Christianity, through stoning, crucifixion, burning at the stake or other forms of torture and capital punishment. The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word μάρτυς, mártys, which means "witness."...

 who is venerated as a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. Her feast day in the West is 13 December; with a name derived from lux, lucis "light", she is the patron saint of those who are blind
Blindness
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

. Saint Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church among the Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n peoples, who take part in Saint Lucy's Day celebrations that retain many elements of Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

.
Encyclopedia
Saint Lucy also known as Saint Lucia, was a wealthy young Christian martyr
Christian martyrs
A Christian martyr is one who is killed for following Christianity, through stoning, crucifixion, burning at the stake or other forms of torture and capital punishment. The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word μάρτυς, mártys, which means "witness."...

 who is venerated as a saint
Saint
A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

 by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. Her feast day in the West is 13 December; with a name derived from lux, lucis "light", she is the patron saint of those who are blind
Blindness
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

. Saint Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church among the Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n peoples, who take part in Saint Lucy's Day celebrations that retain many elements of Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

. Saint Lucy is one of seven women, aside from the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass
Canon of the Mass
Canon of the Mass is the name given in the Roman Missal, from the first typical edition of Pope Pius V in 1570 to that of Pope John XXIII in 1962, to the part of the Mass of the Roman Rite that begins after the Sanctus with the words Te igitur...

. Hagiography
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 tells us that Lucy was a Christian during the Diocletian persecution
Diocletian Persecution
The Diocletianic Persecution was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman empire. In 303, Emperor Diocletian and Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding the legal rights of Christians and demanding that they comply with traditional Roman...

. She consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards took out her eyes with a fork. In another version, Lucy's would-be husband admired her eyes, so she tore them out and gave them to him, saying, "Now let me live to God".

The oldest record of her story comes from the fifth-century accounts of saints' lives. By the 6th century, her story was widespread, so that she appears in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I , better known in English as Gregory the Great, was pope from 3 September 590 until his death...

. At the opening of the 8th century Aldhelm included a brief account of her life among the virgins praised in De laude virginitatis, and in the following century the Venerable Bede included her in his Martyrology
Martyrology
A martyrology is a catalogue or list of martyrs , arranged in the calendar order of their anniversaries or feasts. Local martyrologies record exclusively the custom of a particular Church. Local lists were enriched by names borrowed from neighbouring churches...

. In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy's eyes are gouged out prior to her execution. In art, her eyes sometimes appear on a tray that she is holding.

Until 1861 relics of Saint Lucy were venerated in a church dedicated to her in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

; after its demolition, they were transferred to the church of San Geremia.

The Roman Catholic calendar of saints
Roman Catholic calendar of saints
The General Roman Calendar indicates the days of the year to which are assigned the liturgical celebrations of saints and of the mysteries of the Lord that are to be observed wherever the Roman Rite is used...

 formerly had a commemoration of Saints Lucy and Geminianus on 16 September. This was removed in 1969, as a duplication of the feast of her dies natalis on 13 December and because the Geminianus in question, mentioned in the Passio of Saint Lucy, seems to be a merely fictitious figure, unrelated to the Geminianus whose feast is on 31 January.

Life

Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root (luc-) with the Latin word for light, lux. "In 'Lucy' is said, the way of light" Jacobus de Voragine
Jacobus de Voragine
Blessed Jacobus de Varagine or Voragine was an Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa. He was the author, or more accurately the compiler, of Legenda Aurea, the Golden Legend, a collection of the legendary lives of the greater saints of the medieval church that was one of the most popular...

 stated at the beginning of his vita of the Blessed Virgin Lucy, in Legenda Aurea
Golden Legend
The Golden Legend is a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine that became a late medieval bestseller. More than a thousand manuscripts of the text have survived, compared to twenty or so of its nearest rivals...

, the most widely-read version of the Lucy legend in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

.

Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery and fortitude, legends grew up, reported in the acta
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

that are associated with her name. All the details are conventional ones also associated with other female martyrs of the early 4th century. Her Roman father died when she was young, leaving her and her mother without a protecting guardian. Her mother, Eutychia, had suffered four years with dysentery but Lucy had heard the renown of Saint Agatha, the patroness of Catania
Catania
Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is the capital of the homonymous province, and with 298,957 inhabitants it is the second-largest city in Sicily and the tenth in Italy.Catania is known to have a seismic history and...

, "and when they were at a Mass, one read a gospel that made mention of a woman who was healed of the dysentery
Dysentery
Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, dysentery can be fatal.There are differences between dysentery and normal bloody diarrhoea...

 by touching of the hem of the coat of Jesus Christ," which, according to the Legenda Aurea, convinced her mother to pray together at Saint Agatha's tomb. They stayed up all night praying, until they fell asleep, exhausted. Saint Agatha appeared in a vision to Lucy and said, "Soon you shall be the glory of Syracuse, as I am of Catania." At that instant Eutychia was cured.

Eutychia had arranged a marriage for Lucy with a pagan bridegroom, but Lucy urged that the dowry be spent on alms
Alms
Alms or almsgiving is a religious rite which, in general, involves giving materially to another as an act of religious virtue.It exists in a number of religions. In Philippine Regions, alms are given as charity to benefit the poor. In Buddhism, alms are given by lay people to monks and nuns to...

 so that she might retain her virginity
Virginity
Virginity refers to the state of a person who has never engaged in sexual intercourse. There are cultural and religious traditions which place special value and significance on this state, especially in the case of unmarried females, associated with notions of personal purity, honor and worth...

. Euthychia suggested that the sums would make a good bequest, but Lucy countered, "...whatever you give away at death for the Lord's sake you give because you cannot take it with you. Give now to the true Savior, while you are healthy, whatever you intended to give away at your death." News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to the ears of Lucy's betrothed, who heard from a chattering nurse that Lucy had found a nobler Bridegroom.

Her rejected pagan bridegroom denounced Lucy as a Christian to the magistrate Paschasius, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image. Lucy replied that she had given all that she had: "I offer to Him myself, let Him do with His offering as it pleases Him." Sentenced to be defiled in a brothel, Lucy asserted:
The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away they found her so filled with the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 that she was as stiff and heavy as a mountain; they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Even after implanting a dagger through her throat she prophesied against her persecutor. Unfounded, and absent in the many narratives and traditions, at least until the 15th century, is the story of Lucia tortured by eye-gouging. The emblem of the eyes on the cup, or plate, must be linked simply to popular devotion to her, as protector of sight, because of her name, Lucia (from the latin word "lux" which means "light"). In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown holding her eyes on a golden plate.

Lucy was represented in Gothic art holding a dish with two eyes on it (illustration above). The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes.

Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 also mentions Lucia in Inferno Canto II as the messenger "of all cruelty the foe" sent to Beatrice
Beatrice Portinari
Beatrice "Bice" di Folco Portinari was a Florentine woman known as the muse of the poet Dante Alighieri. Beatrice was the principal inspiration for Dante's Vita Nuova, and also appears as his guide in the Divine Comedy in the last book, Paradiso, and in the last four canti of Purgatorio...

 from "The blessed Dame" (Divine Mercy), to rouse Beatrice to send Virgil to Dante's aid. She has instructed Virgil to guide Dante through Hell and Purgatory. Lucia is only referenced indirectly in Virgil's discourse within the narrative and doesn't appear. According to Robert Harrison, Professor in Italian Literature at Stanford University and Rachel Jacoff, Professor of Italian Studies at Wellesley, Lucia's appearance in this intermediary role is to reinforce the scene in which Virgil attempts to fortify Dante's courage to begin the journey through the Inferno.

Lucy may also be seen as a figure of Illuminating Grace or Mercy or even Justice. Nonetheless Dante obviously regarded Lucia with great reverence, placing her opposite Adam within the Mystic Rose in Canto XXXII of the Paradiso.

In Mark Musa's translation of Dante's Purgatorio, it is noted that Lucy was admired by an undesirable suitor for her beautiful eyes. To stay chaste she plucked out her own eyes, a great sacrifice for which God gave her a pair of even more beautiful eyes. It is said in Sweden that to vividly celebrate St. Lucy's Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.

Lucy's name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. She was the patroness of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy.

Relics

Sigebert
Sigebert of Gembloux
Sigebert of Gembloux was a medieval author, known mainly as a pro-Imperial historian of a universal chronicle, opposed to the expansive papacy of Gregory VII and Pascal II...

 (1030–1112), a monk of Gembloux
Gembloux
Gembloux is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Namur, on the axis Brussels-NamurOn 1 January 2006 the municipality had 21,964 inhabitants...

, in his sermo de Sancta Lucia, chronicled that her body lay undisturbed in Sicily for 400 years, before Faroald II, Duke of Spoleto
Faroald II of Spoleto
Faroald II was the duke of Spoleto from 703, when he succeeded his own father Thrasimund I.Faroald attacked and took Classis, the port of Ravenna, but he was ordered to return it by King Liutprand. Faroald also founded and endowed the monastery of San Pietro in Valle at Ferentillo...

, captured the island and transferred the body to Corfinium
Corfinium
Corfinium was a city in Ancient Italy, on the eastern side of the Apennines, due east of Rome. It is now near the modern Corfinio, in the province of L'Aquila .-History:...

 in the Abruzzo
Abruzzo
Abruzzo is a region in Italy, its western border lying less than due east of Rome. Abruzzo borders the region of Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and south-west, Molise to the south-east, and the Adriatic Sea to the east...

, Italy. From there it was removed by the Emperor Otho I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 in 972 to Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

 and deposited in the church of St. Vincent. It was from this shrine that an arm of the saint was taken to the monastery of Luitburg in the Diocese of Speyer - an incident celebrated by Sigebert himself in verse.

The subsequent history of the relics is not clear. On their capture of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 in 1204, the French found some relics attributed to Saint Lucy in the city, and Enrico Dandolo
Enrico Dandolo
Enrico Dandolo — anglicised as Henry Dandolo and Latinized as Henricus Dandulus — was the 41st Doge of Venice from 1195 until his death...

, Doge of Venice
Doge of Venice
The Doge of Venice , often mistranslated Duke was the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice for over a thousand years. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the city-state's aristocracy. Commonly the person selected as Doge was the shrewdest elder in the city...

, secured them for the monastery of St. George at Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

. In 1513 the Venetians presented to Louis XII of France
Louis XII of France
Louis proved to be a popular king. At the end of his reign the crown deficit was no greater than it had been when he succeeded Charles VIII in 1498, despite several expensive military campaigns in Italy. His fiscal reforms of 1504 and 1508 tightened and improved procedures for the collection of taxes...

 the saint's head, which he deposited in the cathedral church of Bourges
Bourges
Bourges is a city in central France on the Yèvre river. It is the capital of the department of Cher and also was the capital of the former province of Berry.-History:...

. Another account, however, states that the head was brought to Bourges from Rome where it had been transferred during the time when the relics rested in Corfinium. The remainder of the relics remain in Venice: they were transferred to the church of San Geremia
San Geremia
San Geremia is a church in Venice, northern Italy, located in the sestiere of Cannaregio. The edifice is popular as the seat of the cult of Saint Lucy of Syracuse, whose remains are housed inside.-History:...

 when the church of Santa Lucia was demolished in the 19th century to make way for the new railway terminus. A century later, on 7 November 1981, thieves stole all her bones, except her head. Police recovered them five weeks later, on her feast day. Other parts of the corpse have found their way to Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, as well as Germany and France.

Popular celebration

Her brief day was commonly thought to be the shortest day of the year, as can be seen in John Donne
John Donne
John Donne 31 March 1631), English poet, satirist, lawyer, and priest, is now considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are notable for their strong and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs,...

's poem, "A Nocturnal upon St. Lucie's Day, being the shortest day" (1627). The poem begins with: "'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's," and expresses, in a mourning piece, the withdrawal of the world-spirit into sterility and darkness, where "The world's whole sap is sunk." .

This timing, and her name meaning light, is a factor in the particular devotion to St. Lucy in Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n countries, where young girls dress as the saint in honor of the feast. A special devotion to St. Lucy is present in the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 regions of Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

, Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna
Emilia–Romagna is an administrative region of Northern Italy comprising the two historic regions of Emilia and Romagna. The capital is Bologna; it has an area of and about 4.4 million inhabitants....

, Veneto
Veneto
Veneto is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Its population is about 5 million, ranking 5th in Italy.Veneto had been for more than a millennium an independent state, the Republic of Venice, until it was eventually annexed by Italy in 1866 after brief Austrian and French rule...

, Trentino-Alto Adige, in the North of the country, and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, in the South.

The feast is a Catholic celebrated holiday with roots that can be traced back to Sicily. On 13th of every December it is celebrated with large traditional feasts of home made pasta and various other Italian dishes, with a special dessert of wheat in hot chocolate milk. The large grains of soft wheat are representative of her eyes and are a treat only to be indulged in once a year.

In Omaha, Nebraska, the Santa Lucia Festival is celebrated each summer. It was founded in 1925 by Italian Immigrant Grazia Buonafede Caniglia, and continues to this day. A statue of Saint Lucy is paraded through the streets of downtown Omaha, along with a First class relic, made of the physical body of Saint Lucy.

List of dedications to St. Lucy

  • St. Lucy's Church (Manhattan) (parish established 1900, present church built 1915)
  • St. Lucy's Church, Newark, New Jersey
    Newark, New Jersey
    Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

  • Church of St. Lucy, Santa Luċija, Gonzo, Kerċem
    Kercem
    Ta' Kerċem is a village on Gozo Island, Malta, with a population of 1,654 people .The village of Ta' Kerċem lies close by to the south-west of Victoria, spread between the picturesque Lunzjata Valley, the green hills of Tal-Mixta, Għar Ilma and Ta' Dbieġi, and stretching up to the Pond of Għadira...

    , Malta
    Malta
    Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

  • Saint Lucie County, Florida
  • St. Lucy's National Shrine at Micoud, Saint Lucia
    Saint Lucia
    Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

    , West Indies
  • St. Lucia's Church, Kotahena, Colombo
    Colombo
    Colombo is the largest city of Sri Lanka. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte, the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is often referred to as the capital of the country, since Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is a satellite city of Colombo...

    , Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

  • The Order of St. Lucy

External links

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