Saint Lucy

: "This article is about the Catholic saint. For other meanings, see Saint Lucia (disambiguation)Infobox Saint
name=Saint Lucy
feast_day=December 13, St. Lucy's Day
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Lutheran Church, Anglican Churches

caption="Saint Lucy," by Domenico Beccafumi, 1521, is a High Renaissance recasting of a Gothic iconic image (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena)
birth_place= Syracuse
death_place= Syracuse
patronage= blind; martyrs; Perugia, Italy; Mtarfa, Malta; epidemics; salesmen, Syracuse, Italy, throat infections
attributes=cord; eyes; eyes on a dish; lamp; swords; woman hitched to a yoke of oxen; woman in the company of Saint Agatha, Saint Agnes of Rome, Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Thecla; woman kneeling before the tomb of Saint Agatha
major_shrine=San Geremia, Venice
prayer=Relying on Your goodness, O God, we humbly ask You, through the intercession of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, to give perfect vision to our eyes, that they may serve for Your greater honor and glory.

Saint Lucy, hear our prayers and obtain our petitions. Amen.
prayer_attrib=Catholic Church

Saint Lucy of Syracuse, also known as Saint Lucia, Santa Lucia, or Saint Lukia, (traditional dates 283–304) was a rich young Christian martyr who is venerated as a saint by Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Her feast day in the West is December 13, by the unreformed Julian calendar the longest night of the year; she is the patron saint of those who are blind. Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by the Lutheran Swedes, [] Finland-Swedes, [] Danes [] and Norwegians [] in celebrations that retain many indigenous Germanic pagan pre-Christian midwinter light festivals. [The other notable saints still venerated by Scandinavian Lutherans are St. John the Baptist at midsummer, and St. Olaf, the patron Saint of Norway, at Olsok.] She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Roman Canon.

Her "hagiography" tells that Lucy was a Christian while Diocletian was persecuting and martyring Christians. She consecrated her virginity to God, [ [ St. Lucy] in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)] 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. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards stabbed her and killed her.

The oldest record of her story comes from the fifth-century accounts of saints' lives. [ [] "The Catholic Encyclopedia" (1913): "St. Lucy"] By the sixth century, her story was widespread, so that she appears in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I. [Noted by Blunt 1885.] At the opening of the eighth century Aldhelm of Malmesbury 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. [ [ "Catholic Encyclopedia"] ; supplementing the fourteenth-century synthesis of legendary material in "Legenda Aurea", Sigebert of Gembloux's mid-eleventh century "passio", written to support a local cult of Lucy at Metz, is edited by Tino Licht, "Acta Sanctae Luciae" (Universitätsverlag Winter) 2007 ISBN 3-8253-5368-0 along with a historicising tractate and a sermon.] In medieval accounts, St. Lucy's eyes are gouged out prior to her execution. In art, her eyes sometimes appear on a plate that she's holding.

Until 1861 relics of Saint Lucy were venerated in a church dedicated to her in Venice; after its demolition, they were translated to the church of San Geremia, where they can still be seen.

The Roman Catholic calendar of saints 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" (birth to heaven) on 13 December and because the Geminianus in question, mentioned in the "Passio" of Saint Lucy, seems to be a merely fictitious figure, ["Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 139] unrelated to the Saint Geminianus whose feast is on 31 January.


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 stated at the beginning of his "vita" of the Blessed Virgin Lucy, in "Legenda Aurea", the most widely-read version of the Lucy legend in the Middle Ages.

Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up, reported in the "acta" that are associated with her name. All the details are conventional ones also associated with other female martyrs of the early 4th century. ["We know nothing of St. Lucy, as the sole authority for her story is her fabulous 'Acts', a Christian romance similar to the 'Acts' of other virgin martyrs", wrote John Henry Blunt ("The Annotated Book of Common Prayer", [London] 1885:176), adding "though probably based on facts".] 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 a "bloody flux" but Lucy had heard the renown of Saint Agatha, the patroness of Catania, "and when they were at a Mass, one read a gospel that made mention of a woman who was healed of the bloody flux 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 so that she might retain her virginity. 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." cite web
url =
title = Ælfric's Lives of Saints
accessdaymonth = 20 June
accessyear = 2007
work = (Walter W. Skeat, ed., Early English Text Society, original series, vols. 76, 82, 94, 114 [London, 1881-1900] , revised; as found at [ the University of Virginia's Old English resource pages] )
] 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:cquote|No one's body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.cite web
url =
title = Ælfric's Lives of Saints
accessdaymonth = 20 June
accessyear = 2007
work = (Walter W. Skeat, ed., Early English Text Society, original series, vols. 76, 82, 94, 114 [London, 1881-1900] , revised; as found at [ the University of Virginia's Old English resource pages] )

The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away they found her so filled with the Holy Spirit that she was stiff and heavy as a mountain; they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen. Even with a dagger through her throat she prophesied against her persecutor. As final torture, her eyes were gouged out. She was miraculously still able to see without her eyes. In paintings and statues, St. Lucy is frequently shown holding her eyes on a golden plate.


Jacobus de Voragine did not include the episode of Lucy's "passion" that has been most vivid to her devotés ever since the Middle Ages: having her eyes torn out. It should be noted that another account dates this loss of eyes to before her martyrdom, claiming that in response to a suitor who admired her beautiful eyes, "she cut them out and sent them to him, asking to be left in peace thereafter."cite web
url =
title = "St. Lucy's Day" article
accessdaymonth = 20 June
accessyear = 2007
work = At [ the "School of the Seasons" website]
] 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 also mentions Lucia in "Inferno" Canto II as the messenger "of all cruelty the foe" sent to Beatrice 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; the reasons for her appearing in this intermediary role are still somewhat unclear to scholars, although doubtless Dante had some allegorical end in mind, perhaps having Lucy as a figure of Illuminating Grace or Mercy or even Justice.See David H. Higgins' commentary in Dante, "The Divine Comedy," trans. C.H. Sisson. NY: Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 019920960X. P. 506.] 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.

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.

As her brief day brings the longest night of the year by the old reckoning, John Donne's poem, "A Nocturnal upon St. Lucie's Day, being the shortest day", 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 Scandinavian countries, where young girls dress as the saint in honor of the feast.


External links

* [ Jacobus de Voragine, "Legenda Aurea":] St. Lucy (e-text, in English)
* [ "Cara Santa Lucia..."] it
* [ "St. Lucy" from New Advent's "Catholic Encyclopedia."]

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