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FEAST - A Saint for the Day (December 13): St. Lucy


John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>


medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>


Tue, 13 Dec 2016 08:44:51 +0000





text/plain (1 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Lucy (d. 304, supposedly; usually referred to without geographic specification, the others all having their own identifiers) is an early martyr of Syracuse.  Her cult is first attested from the late fourth- or early fifth-century epitaph of Euskia, a woman of about twenty-five years of age who was laid to rest at Syracuse in the Christian cemetery now known as that of San Giovanni and who, in the words of her husband, _anepauseto te heorte tes kyrias mou Loukias_ ('died on the feast of my lady Lucy').  Here's a view of the epitaph:


A reproduction of the inscription with the letters miniated for ease in reading (and with an Italian-language translation) is here:


The inscription is no. 20 in Santi Luigi Agnello, _Silloge di iscrizioni paleocristiane della Sicilia_ (Roma: "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1953), with the edited text on p. 23 and commentary on pp. 65-66.


Seemingly from the fifth century is the oldest known version of Lucy's Passio (BHG 995).  This makes her an affianced young woman of Syracuse who has vowed secretly to remain virginal and who makes a pilgrimage with her mother to the tomb of St. Agatha at Catania.  At Lucy's suggestion her mother, who suffers from an incurable flux, touches the tomb and is healed.  Agatha appears to Lucy in a vision and reveals that it was really Lucy's faith that operated this cure.  Lucy then reveals to her mother her desire to remain virginal and begins to live in poverty as well.  This displeases Lucy's fiancé, who reports her to the authorities as a Christian (this is during Diocletian's persecution).  Lucy is arrested, refuses to sacrifice to the gods of the state, predicts the downfall of Diocletian and Maximian, is sentenced to serve in a brothel (but a team of bullocks is unable to pull her there), undergoes tortures, and is decapitated.  A church is built over her grave.

In the sixth century Lucy's cult is first documented from peninsular Italy, where she appears along with St. Agatha in the procession of the virgin martyrs in Ravenna's basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo (mosaics dated to ca. 561) and in the _Nobis quoque_ of the Roman canon of the Mass (first documented from the seventh century in a form that had undergone revision; according to St. Aldhelm, Agatha and Lucy were added by pope St. Gregory the Great).  By the end of the sixth century there were monasteries dedicated to Lucy in Syracuse and in Rome.  By the end of the seventh century a Latin version of her originally Greek Passio had come into being (BHL 4992; adapted by Aldhelm in his _De virginitate_). A Mass for Lucy first appears in the Gregorian Sacramentary.

BHL 4992, which became standard in the medieval Latin West, is usually faithful to its Greek predecessor but changes Lucy's manner of death to a sword blow that allows her to live long enough to receive the Eucharist before expiring.  In the ninth century Lucy was the subject of a kanon (a lengthy hymn form) by St. Methodius I, a native of Syracuse and Sicily's only patriarch of Constantinople, and in the same century her Greek Passio was revised and expanded at Syracuse in a form (BHG 995d) that seems generally not to have supplanted its predecessor.  In the eleventh century another kanon honoring Lucy was composed by St. Bartholomew of Grottaferrata.  An Italian-language translation of that is here:


Only in the fourteenth century does the story appear whereby Lucy blinds herself in order to deter a persistent suitor (to whom she then sends her eyes).  To judge from early references, some version was already in existence before then.  Lucy occurs three times in Dante's _Commedia_ (_Inferno_ 2. 94-117; _Purgatorio_ 9. 52-63; _Paradiso_ 32. 136-38); in the first two instances her eyes are singled out for attention.  The Latin noun _lux_, _lucis_ denotes 'light' but has extended meanings of 'insight' and 'eyesight'; all of these were associated with Lucy, either spiritually or metaphorically or in connection with problems with one's eyes.  A similar progression is observable in the case of the Greek St. Photeine ('Luminous', 'Enlightened'), who like Lucy became a patron of those with disorders of the eye.



Some period-pertinent images of St. Lucy:

a) as depicted (second from right) in the heavily restored later sixth-century mosaic of the procession of virgin martyrs (ca. 561) in the nave of Ravenna's basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo:


A distance view in better color (Lucy now at center; photograph courtesy of Genevra Kornbluth):


b)  as depicted (martyrdom) in the late tenth- or very early eleventh-century so-called Menologion of Basil II (Città del Vaticano, BAV, cod. Vat. gr. 1613, p. 242):



c) as depicted in a twelfth-century Office lectionary (ca. 1134-1166?; Charleville-Mézières, Médiathèque Voyelles, ms. 258, fol. 169r):


d) as depicted in a pen-and-ink drawing in a seemingly later twelfth-century legendary (Avignon, Bibliothèque-Médiathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 5068, fol. 7v):



e) as depicted (with the bullocks) in one of five panels of a full-page illumination in the late twelfth-century so-called Bible of Saint Bertin (ca. 1190-1200; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 5, fol. 40r, sc. 2B):


f) as depicted on a seemingly earlier to mid-thirteenth-century map of part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean (ca. 1234-1266; Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 175, sheet 7):



g) as depicted (with the bullocks) in a panel of a mid-thirteenth-century ambulatory window of the cathédrale Saint-Julien, Le Mans (bay 109, panel C3):


h) as depicted in a panel of a mid-thirteenth-century glass window (ca. 1245-1250; bay 202) in Strasbourg's cathédrale Notre-Dame:


i) as depicted (at upper right) by Jacopo Torriti (attrib.) in a late thirteenth-century panel painting (from a dismembered altarpiece formerly in Rome's chiesa di Santa Lucia in Selci) in the Musée de Grenoble:


j) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 4v):


k) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late thirteenth-century French-language legendary (1285; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 412, fol. 71r):


l) as depicted (martyrdom) in the late thirteenth-century Livre d'images de Madame Marie (ca. 1285-1290; Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition française 16251, fol. 99v):


m) as depicted (at right) in a late thirteenth-century fresco (1292, conjecturally) in the rupestrian chiesa (or cripta) di Santa Lucia dei Giaconelli near Melfi:


n) as depicted (scenes from her Passio) in two late thirteenth- or early fourteenth-century panel paintings, from the iglesia parroquial de Santa Llúcia de Mur (Guàrdia de Noguera, Pallars Jussà), in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona:


o) as depicted in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of her Office (Avignon, Bibliothèque-Médiathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 117, fol. 5r):


p) as depicted (at far left) in an earlier fourteenth-century mosaic (betw. 1304 and 1333) in the left apse of Messina's basilica cattedrale protometropolitana della Santissima Assunta:


Detail view (Lucy):


q) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Catherine of Alexandria) by Simone Martini in an earlier fourteenth century panel painting (betw. 1320 and 1325) in the Bernard Berenson Collection in the Villa i Tatti at Settignano:


r) as depicted (with the bullocks) in an earlier fourteenth-century French-language legendary of Parisian origin with illuminations attributed to the Fauvel Master (ca. 1327; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 183, fol. 108r):


s) as depicted (with the bullocks; martyrdom) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of books 9-16 of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1335; Paris, BnF, ms. Arsenal 5080, fol. 281r):


s) as depicted by Niccolò di Segna in an earlier fourteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1340) in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore:


t) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Agatha at her tomb) in a mid-fourteenth-century copy, from the workshop of Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1348; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 241, fol. 13v):


u) as depicted (lower register at far right) by Giovanni da Milano in a mid-fourteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1350-1355) in the National Gallery in London:


v) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Peter) by Nardo di Cione in a predella panel of his mid-fourteenth-century Bojnice altarpiece (after 1350) belonging to the Bojnice Castle Museu in Bojnice (Trenčíansky kraj), Slovakia (when this photograph was taken in 2013 the altarpiece was on display in the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava):


w) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Catherine of Alexandria) by Giovanni da Milano in a panel from his mid- or slightly later fourteenth-century Ognissanti polyptych (before 1365) in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence:


x) as depicted (at left; with her mother at St. Agatha's tomb) by Laurentius presbiter de Andwerpia in a mid- or slightly later fourteenth-century missal (winter part) of southern Netherlandish origin (ca. 1350-1366; Den Haag, Museum Meermanno, Cod. 10 A 14, fol. 151r):


y) as depicted (scenes from her Passio) by Giovanni di Bartolommeo Cristiani in four later fourteenth-century panel paintings (from the same dismembered altarpiece) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:


For the others, click on "Additional Images".

z) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century Roman missal of north Italian origin (ca. 1370; Bibliothèque-Médiathèque Municipale Ceccano, ms. 136-138):

1) martyr portrait (ms. 136, fol. 222v):


2) with the bullocks (ms. 138, fol. 218r):


aa) as twice depicted (in an historiated initial "A": receiving communion; to the right of the initial: with the bullocks) in the later fourteenth-century martyrology and obituary of the abbey of Notre-Dame des Prés in Douai (ca. 1376-1400; Valenciennes, Bibliothèque de Valenciennes, ms. 838, fol. 128r):


bb) as depicted (scenes from her Passio) by Altichiero da Zevio in four later fourteenth-century fresco panels (betw. 1379 and 1384) in the oratorio di San Giorgio in Padua (the first three are captioned; the fourth depicts Lucy's entombment):





cc) as depicted in semi-grisaille (martyrdom) in a late fourteenth-century copy of books 9-16 of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1396; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 313, fol. 265r):


dd) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Rennes, Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 15v):



ee) as depicted in an historiated initial "A" in the very late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Breviary of Martin of Aragon (Paris, BnF, ms. Rothschild 2529, fol. 415r):


ff) as depicted by Tommaso Cardillo in a fifteenth-century fresco in the chiesa di Santa Maria a Piazza in Aversa (CE) in Campania:


Look closely at the chalice!

gg) as depicted (scenes from her Passio) by Jacobello del Fiore in eight early fifteenth-century panel paintings (ca. 1410; from a dismembered altarpiece) in the Polo Museale Palazzo dei Priori, Fermo:

1) Lucy (second from left; at left her mother) experiencing her vision of St. Agatha:


2) Lucy distibutes alms:


3) Lucy is denounced by her betrothed:


4) Bullocks attempt to draw Lucy to the brothel


5) Lucy survives the burning pyre unharmed:


6) Lucy is stabbed in the throat:


7) Lucy receives the Eucharist:


8) Lucy's entombment:


hh) as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century Breviary of Marie de Savoie (ca. 1430; Chambéry, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 4, fol. 421r):


ii) as depicted in the earlier fifteenth-century Hours of Catherine of Cleves (ca. 1440; New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, Morgan MS M.917, p. 310):


jj) as depicted (martyrdom) by Domenico Veneziano in a mid-fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1445) in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin:


kk) as depicted (martyrdom) by the court workshop of Frederick III in a mid-fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ (1446-1447; Vienna, ÖNB, cod. 326, fol. 10r):


ll) as depicted in grisaille (martyrdom while tied to the bullocks!) by Jean le Tavernier in the mid-fifteenth-century Hours of Philip of Burgundy (ca. 1451-1460; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 2, fol. 278v):


mm) as depicted (scenes from her Passio) by the Master of the St. Lucy Legend in a later fifteenth-century panel painting in the Sint-Jacobskerk in Brugge / Bruges:


nn) as depicted (at left; at right, St. Jerome) in a later fifteenth-century fresco in the chiesa di San Giorgio in Lemine in Almenno San Salvatore (BG) in Lombardy:


oo) as depicted (at center, betw. St. Martha and St. Catherine of Alexandria) in a later fifteenth-century fresco (betw. 1460 and 1480) in the pieve di San Lorenzo at Settimo Vittone (TO) in Piedmont:


pp) as depicted (standing, plus scenes from her Passio) by Quirizio da Murano in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1462-1478) in the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia dei Concordi in Rovigo:


qq) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Theodulus the bishop) in the later fifteenth-century frescoes (1463) in the oratorio di San Bernardo in Briona (NO) in Piedmont:


Detail view:


rr) as depicted (lower two registers: scenes from her Passio) in a later fifteenth-century copy of books 12-22 of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1463; Paris, BnF, ms. Français 51, fol. 95v):


ss) as depicted by Cosimo Rosselli in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1470) in the San Diego Museum of Art:


Look closely at the lamp!

tt) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Anthony of Egypt) by Carlo Crivelli in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (1470; from his now dismembered Porto San Giorgio altarpiece) in the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków (click on the image to expand it):


uu) as depicted by Francesco del Cossa in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1473-1474) in the National Gallery of Art in Washington:


Detail view:


vv) as depicted (second from left) by Enrique Alemán in a later fifteenth-century glass window (1479) in the capilla de Santa Ana in Seville's catedral de Santa María de la Sede:


ww) as depicted by Filippino Lippi (attrib.) in a later fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1480) in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Prato:


xx) as depicted (martyrdom) in an historiated initial "I" in a late fifteenth-century Roman Breviary of French origin (after 1482; Clermont-Ferrand, Bibliothèque du patrimoine, ms. 69, fol. 553v):


yy) as depicted by Carlo Crivelli in a late fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1490) in the Musée du Petit Palais in Avignon:


zz) as portrayed in a late fifteenth-century polychromed glazed terracotta statue (1490s; attributed to Benedetto Buglioni) in the cappella di Santa Lucia in the basilica di Santa Cristina in Bolsena:




aaa) as depicted in a hand-colored woodcut in the Beloit College copy of Hartmann Schedel's late fifteenth-century _Weltchronik_ (_Nuremberg Chronicle_; 1493) at fol. CXXVr:


bbb) as depicted (holding a pillar) in an historiated initial "A" in the late fifteenth-century Isabella Breviary (ca. 1497; London, BL, Add. Ms. 18851, fol. 303r):


ccc) as depicted (at foot of the page) in the late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century Hours of Bonaparte Ghislieri (London, BL, Yates Thompson MS 29, fol. 9r [in the calendar]):


ddd) as portrayed by the Maestro della Madonna di Macereto in a late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century polychromed wooden statue in the Museo diocesano in Camerino (click on the image to enlarge it):


Detail view:


eee) as portrayed in relief by Andrés de Nájera on a bench end in his earlier sixteenth-century choir stalls (ca. 1525-1529) for the Monasterio de San Benito el Real in Valladolid, now in the Museo Nacional de Escultura in the same city:



John Dillon


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