Lucy was born in 283 to wealthy Roman parents in the area of Siracusa in western Sicily. Her father was Roman, while her mother, Eutychia, had Greek origins. When Lucy was 5 years old, her father died, leaving Lucy and Eutychia to fend for themselves.
Lucy was a Christian and knew that she would be expected to marry and that there was a dowry set aside for her. She secretly consecrated her virginity to God and hoped to give her dowry away to the poor.
Probably unaware of the girl’s wishes, Lucy’s mother, concerned for her daughter’s future as a single woman of the Christian faith, arranged a marriage for Lucy, betrothing her to a young man from a wealthy pagan family. Part of the sudden betrothal was due to Eutychia’s poor health. She suffered from an unknown bleeding disorder and wanted to secure her daughter’s future quickly.
Because of her illness, Eutychia made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Agatha, a Christian martyr from an earlier era of Roman persecution. While the women were away on pilgrimage, Lucy experienced a vision of St. Agatha in her dreams. The vision told Lucy that her mother would be cured because of Lucy’s great faith and that Lucy would achieve glory and honor.
When Lucy and her mother returned home, Eutychia’s health did, in fact, improve significantly. Lucy shared her vision with her mother and asked for permission to distribute most of the wealth from her dowry to the poor.
Eutychia tried to convince Lucy to give the riches away in her will, rather than right away. Lucy declined, explaining that true charity meant giving her riches away while she was still alive, not when she was dead and had no further use for them.
When word of Lucy’s plans to distribute her dowry reached her Roman fiancé, he furiously denounced her to the Roman authorities. Paschiasius, the governor of Syracuse, ordered Lucy to prove her devotion to the empire and its religious practices by burning a sacrifice to an icon of the emperor. Lucy refused.
Paschiasius sentenced Lucy to be raped in a brothel as punishment for her refusal to comply. Christian tradition states that the soldiers sent to take her away were unable to force her to move, even though they outmatched her in physical strength. Other narratives depict Lucy losing her eyes, either as a means of torture by her Roman captors or as a self-mutilation to discourage the attentions of pagan men. Eventually, Lucy was decapitated with a sword. The traditional account states that, when her body was prepared for burial in her family’s mausoleum, her eyes had been miraculously restored.
By the sixth century, St. Lucy and her story had spread through the Christian world, to the point that she was mentioned in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I. Her feast day was celebrated across the Christian world until the Protestant Reformation and subsequent schisms. Today, she is venerated in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches.
St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind (tied to the lore of her loss of her eyes during her martyrdom), as well as of authors, some craftsmen, laborers, and martyrs. She also is the patron saint of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy, where she spent her short life. The island nation of St. Lucia, located in the Caribbean, also considers St. Lucy to be their patroness.
St. Lucy’s name (Lucia in Latin) shares the root luc with the Latin word for light, lux. Because of this connection, St. Lucy is often depicted in art and religious custom as a bringer of light – which also ties into her patronage of eyes and sight. Her feast day is Dec. 13, during Advent and in winter for the Northern Hemisphere, so there is significant iconography of Lucy as a bringer of light in the darkness. For this reason, she is particularly venerated as part of Scandinavian Christian custom, young girls dress in a white gown and wear wreaths of lights during celebrations in the darkest days of winter.
Indeed, the fact that St. Lucy’s feast day is celebrated as a festival of light seems appropriate for a woman who believed she was bearing the light of Christianity in a world that punished her for it.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: Prahl, Amanda. “Biography of St. Lucy, Bringer of Light.” Learn Religions, Aug. 28, 2020, learnreligions.com/saint-lucy-bringer-of-light-4589771