Eyes on the Festa of Santa Lucia

January 8, 2013 / Events
Siracusa, Sicily
Santa Lucia wikipedia commons Carrying eyes around on a plate is not an everyday occurrence, but it happens twice a year in Syracuse, Sicily during the Festa of Santa Lucia, December 13 and May 13. 

During the Festa, the statue of Santa Lucia is carried through the streets of Syracuse, no mean feat considering that the statue alone is made of 90 kilos of silver, and it stands on a huge base of carved silver – no wonder it takes 60 men to carry it.  But back to those eyes on a plate. 

Several versions of Lucia’s martyrdom are told, including having her eyes gouged out by Diocletian soldiers when she refused to renounce her Christian faith, or even tearing her own eyes out in a rather overly dramatic gesture of her dedication to Christ.  Therefore, Santa Lucia is commonly depicted with the symbol of her eyes on a plate.  Syracuse’s splendid statue of Lucia is no exception. Lucia’s right hand holds a plate, offering her eyes to God.

sl single serious bearer 327 x 305The name Lucia comes from the word luce – light.  She is the protector of eyesight, the patron saint of Syracuse, of ophthalmologists and electricians, and of the blind.

The Festa of Santa Lucia begins with the statue being carried out of the Duomo on the shoulders of the berretti verdi – green berets – accompanied by a raucous display of fireworks. The procession becomes solemn as it slowly winds along the waterfront and through the city until dusk, when the statue is carried into the Church of Santa Lucia, where it remains for 8 days.  On December 20, traditionally the shortest day of the year with the least luce, the statue is carried back to the Duomo in another procession, and locked away until the following May.

Santa Lucia berretti verdi

Santa Lucia Syracuse

Anita Iaconangelo

by Anita Iaconangelo

An expert on walking and culinary tours in many areas of Italy, with a special focus on Sicily, Anita Iaconangelo is the founder of Italian Connection Tours and author of the blog Anita’s Italy. She is currently at work on a book entitled Savoring Sicily: A Culinary Quest. 

7 Responses to “Eyes on the Festa of Santa Lucia”

  1. Growing up in Palisades Park, NJ USA, our church, St. Nicholas, had a statue of St. Lucy holding her eyeballs on a plate, just like the picture in your article.
    We also had Romulus and Remus popping out of a barrel with a wolf nearby.
    And of course a beautiful statue of St. Nick.

  2. Susan Caracciolo Keane

    Never heard of a saint with 2 feast days…but the curious part is the dates are my sister’s and my birthdays!
    That’s why I love this newsletter, lots of obscure and interesting info!

  3. Having grown up processing(often dressed as a saint),I am a devotee of religious traditions such as this. Anita’s good eye captures the moments.

  4. Santa Lucia DiFalco

    I was named Santa after my Grandmother Santa Elia who married Michael Lucia and thus became Santa Lucia. I was the first Lucia girl grandchild and I became Grandma’s favorite, to say the least

  5. CeciliaBelenardo

    I love this Saint, and I love the way the people honor her every year.Thank’s


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