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The cult of Saint Lucy

The landscape of Vendicari
November 8, 2021
The Mediterranean by Boat
December 28, 2021
Ph. credits © Davide M.A.D'Orazio

The cult of Saint Lucy

Rites, prayer and communion of the people of Siracusa

Sarausana je” - She’s a Siracusan! - the invocation bursts forth spontaneously as soon as the Master of the Chapel starts to open the ancient bronze doors of 1608 and you get the first glimpse of the silver statue of Saint Lucy. And it’s repeated by men, women, children; “Sarausana je” followed by “Dicitaccillo cu tuttu u core” - Say it with all your heart! And so the emotion runs over your body and is shared by all the people present, eyes wet with tears generate a new light, the rite is complete and it becomes a chorus of communal prayer. I’ve seen the opening of the doors many times, but still can’t hold back the emotions and especially the unique sensation which overcomes all your senses and draws you to look at Lucia’s face. Pietro Rizzo, master silversmith from Palermo, must have been particularly inspired when he made the simulacrum of Santa Lucia in 1599. The face, which during the restoration I was able to see without its crown, a gift of the people of Siracusa liberated from the plague in 1781, is that of a smiling girl, free, serene, with a long blonde braid, and today it represents Santa Lucia across the world.

Museo P.Orsi, Euskia © Regione Siciliana Ph.Giuseppe Mineo
The relationship between Siracusa and Saint Lucia is special and unique. The inscription of Euskia, found by Paolo Orsi in the Catacombs of San Giovanni in 1894 is testimony of how immediately after her death in 304, Lucia’s personality and story had become memory and heritage of the identity of the community of Siracusa. The absence of her body, taken to Constantinople by Giorgio Maniace in 1039, and then in 1204 to Venice where she currently rests, has strengthened this sense of identity, accompanying it with the hope that her body may some day return. “Lucia sponsa Christi, omnis plebs te expectat” - Lucia, bride of Christ, all the people await you, said the Archbishop of Siracusa Mons. Luigi Bignami in 1912 leaving his words written in the empty Sepulchre.
Ph. credits © Toni Mazzarella
Ph. credits © Toni Mazzarella
Every year, for over 400 years, Lucia’s people follow her Simulacrum, which seems to step forward, preceding everyone who’s walking towards the places of her martyrdom, once outside the city-walls, on a journey that has remained unaltered, in a procession made also of silence and prayers, totally different from the commotion and noise of Catania and Palermo. It really represents the character of the people of Siracusa, wary of showing their passions publicly, and preferring to keep them inside, but ready to put reserve aside and manifest emotion with joy when required.
Popular piety is a demonstration of simple faith, authentic, concrete, physical, made of gestures and the touching of hands. Popular piety is incarnate in the act of the woman suffering from haemorrhages who asks Jesus for help and touches his garments, and in the words of Lucia on the tomb of Saint Agatha, who invites her mother to touch the sepulchre. Lucia’s people get closer to the Simulacrum and the Relics, touching and stroking them in a simple gesture which shows tenderness, discretion and sweetness. Saint Lucy is from Siracusa and the sense of freedom which emerges from the acts of her martyrdom, and especially from the Codex Papadopulo, is the same sense of freedom expressed by Antigone. Saint Lucy, a small young woman, isn’t scared of publicly confirming her beliefs and holds to her ideals and her faith to the very end. A rebellious young woman, a fearless rebel for her love of Christ, a girl who doesn’t hesitate to give all her wealth to the poor and reject her betrothed.

“Sarausana je” - She’s a Siracusan! - the invocation bursts forth spontaneously as soon as the people get the first glimpse of the silver Simulacrum of Saint Lucy. And it’s repeated by men, women, children; “Sarausana je” followed by “Dicitaccillo cu tuttu u core” - say it with all your heart!.

Ph. credits © Davide M.A.D'Orazio

Although the restrictions of the pandemic have halted Santa Lucia’s presence in the streets of Siracusa for the past two years, soon a period of deep involvement will begin for the people of Siracusa, and they will abandon the positions of contrast which now characterise every aspect of public life, though perhaps not for long, in order to find moments of serenity, sharing, fraternity. Saint Lucy is a symbol of identity and reconciliation for Siracusa, and for the world she's a symbol of testimony of the Word of God. Her story began 1717 years ago but maintains its colours and its beauty intact.
November 2021

Ph. credits © Toni Mazzarella
resized_Michele Pantano Santa Lucia 2018 (3)
resized_Michele Pantano Santa Lucia 2018 (14)
Ph. credits © Michele Pantano 2018
resized_Michele Pantano Santa Lucia 2018 (1)
Ph. Michele Pantano 2018

resized_Michele Pantano Santa Lucia 2018 (4)
Ph. Michele Pantano 2018


Lawyer and President of the Foundation of the Deputation of the Chapel of Saint Lucy, which oversees the cult of Lucy since 1541, he is also President of the Association Friends of INDA which aims to keep the spirit of the founding committee of the plays in the Greek Theatre of Siracusa of 1913 alive. He is coordinator of the Ecclesiastical Cultural Park created by the Archdiocese of Siracusa to promote and protect the church's heritage. He was born and lives in Ortigia and has the good fortune to wake up every day and look out at the Cathedral facade, and to watch the sun set over the Great Harbour of Siracusa.