Wednesday, 13 December 2006

St Lucy's Slipper

I love the Advent saints - and today it is the turn of the Sicilian Virgin Martyr, St Lucy. She is an appropriate saint for the Season for her name is derived from lux (light) and points towards the coming of the Light of the World, her Bridegroom, in just over a week's time. According to the Julian Calendar, 13 December was the longest night of the year. In Sweden her feast is celebrated by processions and carol-singing, in which one young giril dresses as St Lucy in a white gown and wearing a crown of lit candles.

St Lucy is popularly invoked against eye problems and blindness - despite the tradition that she tore her eyes out in order to put off a suitor (which is why one of her iconographic symbols is a plate with her eyeballs!).

This time last year I was in Rome and, to mark the feast, visited the little-known church of Santa Lucia in Selci on the Esquiline Hill. The convent of Augustinian nuns is best known as one of the chief dispensaries of relics (which is referred to as the Lipsanoteca) - provided you have a letter of recommendation from a bishop. The little church was 'baroque-ified' in the seventeenth century, thanks to the likes of Maderno and Borromini. The doors are opened every 13 December and Romans pour in to pray to the martyr, attend one of the many Masses, pick up a santino or bottle of St Lucy's oil and venerate the relics. The body of the saint is claimed by the church of Santi Geremia e Lucia in Venice (near the railway station) but Santa Lucia in Selci boasts the relic of St Lucy's slipper. The picture below is an 'action shot' of a pilgrim wiping the shoe-shaped reliquary with her handkerchief!

Columna es immobilis, Lucia, Sponsa Christi!
Update: Mgr Mark Langham has a wonderful post of the Swedish Sankta Lucia festival that took place at Westminster Cathedral, complete with a young girl wearing the crown of five candles (which, Mgr Langham observes, is very similar to the head-dress of the Bridgettines).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sancta Lucia, ora pro nobis!

8:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just noticed the clock in the right margin giving the time in the "Papal States". While I applaud the gesture, would it not be more correct to say "The States of the Church" or "The Ecclesiastical States"? (I suppose it would also have to be in the singular being that we live in a post-1870 world.) If I'm not mistaken, the term "Papal States" is of Protestant origin.


10:02 pm  
Blogger elena maria vidal said...

Very interesting! It is wonderful how so many relics have been preserved in spite of all the upheavals in the world.

12:53 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Dear Anonymous - Glad you like the clock and thanks for the comment. 'States of the Church' or 'Ecclesiastical States' may indeed be more historically correct and of a stronger Catholic pedigree, but 'Papal States' is the more common name in this country and therefore more familiar to readers of the blog (especially those who aren't historians). So I think I'll stick to it - the clock is, after all, only a light-hearted 'gesture'.

6:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powerful Saint plus Gods greatest gift electric candles

4:06 pm  

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