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Santa Lucia

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1. Traveling with Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia was born and died in Syracuse. And that is where  got buried. After seven centuries of peaceful rest the relics moved for the first time. Together with the remains of Saint Agata of Catania they traveled to Constantinople. Empress Teodora did not want them to fall in the hands of the advancing Saracens. Two hundred years later Venetian soldiers on their way back from the fourth crusade brought the relics to Venice. As part of the booty for their boss, the doge.

Santa Lucia

2. Santa Lucia, life in short

Santa Lucia in court

Poor Lucia lost her father when she was just five years old. Her mother, in poor health, wanted her to marry a wealthy pagan and assure her daughters future. Lucy though had ‘consecrated her virginity to God’. During a pilgrimage to Catania, saint Agatha came to Lucy in a dream. She praised Lucy for her faith and cured her mother. Saint Agatha told her she would become saint if she divided her dowry amongst the poor. Her betrothed did not take it well and sued the future saint. The judge, in a bad mood, sentenced her to be defiled in a brothel.

After the verdict the guards did not manage to take her away. Neither did a team of oxen. The judge, fuming by then, had wood brought in and planned to torch the saint. And when the wood wouldn’t burn, someone thrusted a sword in her throat.

3. More life and eyes

What happened with Lucia’s eyes? Well, some say she angered the judge and was therefore tortured by eye-gouging.  Others say she removed them herself, to discourage a suitor who loved them dearly. Pretty drastic, but overall effective. Or it may be symbolic. Saint Lucy is celebrated on what was believed the shortest day of the year. This may explain the popularity of Saint Lucy in Sweden, where light in winter is scarce.

When preparing her burial, Lucy’s eyes were back in their sockets. Reason enough for becoming patron saint of eye illnesses, the blind, glaziers, cinema operators and stained glass workers. And for peeping Toms.

The eyes of Saint Lucy

3. Santa Lucia and food

arancina, queen of the rosticceria at bar Sampolo

About 1100 years after her death, in 1646, a severe famine hit Palermo. People turned to Santa Lucia for help. She was a fellow Sicilian after all. So when a ship loaded with wheat arrived in the port, the miracle came true. People did not waste time bringing the wheat to the mill. They boiled the wheat and ate it with a drizzle of oil. Ever since people in Palermo do not eat bread nor pasta on December 13th. They do eat a lot of fried rice balls though. Arancine. Bakers, pizzerias and restaurants remain closed that day.

4. Days in Venice

Her first rest place flooded and she was moved to another church. There she was evicted because of the construction of a railway station, which until today is named ‘Santa Lucia’. She was moved to the San Geremia church, where  thieves in 1981 stole the relics. These were recovered 36 years later, on the morning of the 13th of December. Lucy made a las trip, a ticket parade, to Syracuse. So Lucy could be beseeched by travelers. 

Santa Lucia Venice

5. The name Lucia-Lucy

Lucy, Lucie, Lucia and Luz, they all come from the latin Lucius. Anciently the name Lucy was given to children born at dawn or to the ones with a fair complexion. So now you know Snow White’s first name.

In Spain and Colombia Lucy is number one! In English speaking countries the name Lucy is not all that popular but constant on the list of girls names. It dances around the 50 position of popular names.

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