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St Lucy of Syracuse

Also known as Santa Lucia or Lucia de Syracuse

Saint Lucy was one of the earliest Christian saints to achieve popularity, having gathered a widespread following before the 5th century. Because of various traditions associating her name with light, she came to be thought of as the patron of sight and was depicted by medieval artists carrying a dish containing her eyes.

  Lucy is said to have been the daughter of a rich nobleman who died when she was young. Her mother was not a Christian and wanted to arrange a marriage between Lucy and a wealthy Pagan. Lucy had committed her life to Christ, pledged to remain a virgin and she wished to spend the money intended for her dowry on alms for the poor. Lucy travelled with her mother to the tomb of Saint Agatha. As they prayed at the tomb, Lucy saw a vision of Saint Agatha and her mother's longstanding illness was miraculously cured as Lucy had hoped it would be, whereby Lucy's mother converted to Christianity.

  This enabled Lucy to spend her money helping the poor, but her intended bridegroom was not pleased and denounced her to the Roman governor as a Christian. The governor first ordered Lucy to make sacrifices to his idols, but she refused and said she would only sacrifice to Christ through her good works. He then sentenced her to be removed to a brothel and forced into prostitution. This order was thwarted when Lucy became immovable and could not be carried away. She was next condemned to death by fire, but she proved impervious to the flames. She died, finally, when her neck was pierced by a sword.

  In actuality, Lucy was probably a victim of the wave of persecution of Christians that occurred late in the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian. References to her are found in early Roman Sacramentaries and, at Syracuse, in an inscription dating from 400 ad. As evidence of her early fame, two churches are known to have been dedicated to her in Britain before the 8th century, at a time when the land was largely pagan.

  Saint Lucy died in year 304 and is venerated on her feast day, December 13.