22 October 2010

The eyes of St. Lucy

Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafumi, 1521, 
a High Renaissance recasting of a Gothic iconic image (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena)
Saint Lucy, also known as Saint Lucia (283 – 304), was a wealthy young Christian martyr who is venerated as a saint by Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. Her feast day in the West is 13 December, by the unreformed Julian calendar the longest night of the year; with a name derived from lux, lucis "light", she is the patron saint of those who are blind. Saint Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by members of the Lutheran Church among the Scandinavian peoples, who take part in Saint Lucy's Day celebrations that retain many elements of Germanic paganism...  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...

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

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.


  1. Between this, cynophagy, and detritovores, you're sure in a morbid mood today!

    Interesting as always, though. :-)

  2. When I saw bear baiting and toxic sludge coming up in the link list, I decided to quit for the night...

  3. Jeepers creepers!

    Ain't religion fun?

  4. St. Lucia's Day is pretty fun. My family's Swedish, and Lucia is basically our St. Patrick's day and the start of the Christmas season. We drink a lot of glögg and Christmas vodka and eat ginger cookies and saffron buns. Thankfully, I've always gotten out of being Lucia at church, since the wreath used has actual candles.

    However, I have yet to figure out her actual connection to Scandinavia.


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