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Lucy

(d. 304)


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(d. 304),

virgin and martyr. She died at Syracuse in the persecution of Diocletian. Her cult was both early and widespread: an inscription of c.400 referring to her survives at Syracuse; her name is included in the Canons of the Roman and Ambrosian rites and occurs in the oldest Roman sacramentaries, in Greek liturgical books, and in the marble calendar of Naples. Churches were dedicated to her in Rome, Naples, and eventually Venice. Here, in a church near the railway station, survives a partially incorrupt body claimed to be hers. Two ancient churches were dedicated to her in England, where she has been certainly known from the time of Aldhelm, who praised her in his treatises on Virginity in the late 7th century.

Her historically valueless Acts make her a wealthy Sicilian, who refused marriage offers, gave her goods to the poor, and was accused by her suitor to the persecuting authority. The judge ordered that she should be violated in a brothel, but she was made miraculously immovable; he then tried to have her burnt, also unsuccessfully; so she was finally killed by the sword. Her iconography is based on these Acts, her usual emblem being her eyes, which were reputed to have been torn out and miraculously restored. This element occurs especially in late medieval representations: the earliest surviving image is a simple one without attributes in the frieze of virgins in the 6th-century mosaics of S. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna. Especially in Sweden her feast on the shortest day of the year has become a festival of light: the youngest daughter, dressed in white, wakes the rest of the family with coffee, rolls, and a special song. There and in Sicily the song ‘Santa Lucia’ remains popular. Feast: 13 December.

C.M.H., p. 647; Greek Acts ed. G. R. Taibbi (Istituto Siciliano di Studi Byzantini, Testi vi, 1959) and Latin Acts by A. Beaugrand, Sainte Lucie (1882); see also Aldhelm in R. Ewald, M.G.H., Auctores Antiquisiimi, xv (1919), 293–4; O. Garana, S. Lucia nella tradizione, nella storia nell'arte (1958) and M. Capdevila, Iconographia de Santa Lucia (1949); D. Sox, Relics and Shrines (1985).

Subjects: Christianity.


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