Who is St. Lucy of Syracuse?

While surfing the Internet, I came across the legend and tales associated with Saint Lucy of Syracuse, which struck a chord because she is named after my hometown. Although, I am aware that the Syracuse they speak of is not located in New York, but is actually a city situated in Sicily, Italy, I was interested in knowing more about this particular saint. In this article, we will learn a bit more about who Lucy was and the legend behind her namesake.


Saint Lucy of Syracuse, who is also referred to as Saint Lucia, Santa Lucia, or Saint Lukia, lived between 283 and 304, and is known as the patron saint of blindness. She was known as a wealthy, youthful Christian martyr, who was deemed a saint by Catholic and Orthodox Christians.


Lucy is a significant saint because she is one of few whose legacy is celebrated by the Lutheran Swedes, Finland-Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes who keep many of the same elements of commemoration of pre-Christians. A light festival held in the middle of the winter season is the time of the year set aside for celebration. In the West, her feast day is recognized on December 13th, which falls on the longest night of the year. In regards to the Canon of the Mass, she is one of seven females (with the exception of the Blessed Virgin) to have her name mentioned.


Since the definite details regarding Lucy are covered in controversy and unknown events, many legends pertaining to her existence have evolved. According to a Wikipedia entry regarding the saint, ” Lucy means, “light”, with the same Latin root, lux, as “lucid,” which means, “clear, radiant, understandable.” “In ‘Lucy’ is said, the way of light” Jacobus de Voragine stated at the beginning of his vita of the Blessed Virgin Lucy, in Legenda Aurea, the most widely-read version of the Lucy legend in the Middle Ages.”


Concrete information regarding Lucy deals with the fact that she was a martyr in Syracuse, as she succumbed to the persecutions led by Diocletian in 304 AD. At that time, it was estimated that a total of 3,000 to 3,500 Christians were murdered, while others endured imprisonment or in the worst cases, unthinkable torture. Lucy was among a handful of martyrs from this event, including George, Agnes, and Erasmus of Formiae. Word of her demise spread across Rome and by the time the 6th century came around; the whole Church knew of the courage she displayed to defend the faith.


Many wanted to make Lucy’s bravery a well-known accomplishment to all, so numerous legends were created to help spread the word. For example, in a translation of Dante’s Purgatorio, Lucy is stated as having an undesirable admirer who was most attracted to her eyes. In order to stay uncorrupted, she is said to have plucked out her own eyes. This great sacrifice was so acknowledged by God that he gave her a pair of eyes that were more alluring than her first pair.