Santa Lucia with the knife in her throat
The head of the statue shows Lucia getting it in the neck but it’s better than a representation of eye gouging.
It’s really a beautiful statue (her face is exquisite) and I wonder what the artist would have made of Hippolytus being torn apart by horses, Laurence being toasted on the grill or Catherine on her wheel. In any case, these grisly martyrdoms are purely legendary, a quick beheading was the most common way to go.
Lucia was another young Christian girl who refused to give up her religion despite horrific torture (I’d recant in an instant). The rest of the story is composed of the conventional elements associated with other female martyrs of the early 4th century.
In the 15th century, a little garnish was added to her tale. During her torture, her eyes were gouged out with a fork but God immediately gave her another pair. There are many depictions of Lucia holding a pair of eyes on a plate.
Lucia, with the eyes, but no dagger
The remains of Santa Lucia of Siracusa wandered around Europe for over a thousand years before she came home to her native city.
For 500 years she rested in the church in Siracusa built in her memory until, in 878, as Saracens threatened the city, the relics were concealed in a safe place.
But not safe enough!
In 1039 a Byzantine general, Maniacus, stole them and removed them to Constantinople. In 1204 the great 41st Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, in his eighties and half-blind, the man who at a stroke turned Venice into an imperial power, stole Lucia’s corpse from Byzantium.
She was brought to Venice and installed in the church of San Giorgio, but was to move twice more inside the city, arriving in 1313 at the city church named in her honour. But Lucia still had centuries of wandering ahead of her.
In 1860 the church of Santa Lucia was demolished to make way for the railway station and her remains were shifted to the church of St Geremia. A century later, in 1981, robbers stole all her bones, except her head. Police recovered them five weeks later, on her saint’s day. The parish priest, desperate at losing her, lashed himself to one of her arms. He got to keep it. Lucky man.
Other parts of the mummified Lucia found their way to Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, Germany and France.
But Lucia, the patron saint of eyesight, of the blind and, logically, of photographers, is back home in Siracusa.
Venice was home to her for so long that the gondoliers’ song “Santa Lucia”, originally from Naples, has become part of that city’s identity.
Lucia is much loved in Siracusa. She is a Siracusana after all. The stone at her crypt clearly says so.
Each year her remains, encased in ornate silver and topped by her statue, are carefully carried out from the cathedral and paraded through the city.
It’s not an easy task, the men here are obviously working hard while treating her image with reverence.
The crowd loves her.