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Jul 22, 2013

Medieval Mondays: Saint Lucy with her eyes on a plate

Perhaps it's because I wasn't raised Catholic, but I still do a double take at some of the images of saints. Take Saint Lucy, for instance, who is commonly portrayed holding a pair of eyes on a plate, as you can see in this Spanish painting from the late 15th or early 16th century.

They're actually her eyes, despite the fact that in this picture she has a pair of perfectly good ones in her head. Hey, she's a saint, she can do that sort of thing.

Saint Lucy or Lucia was a Christian martyr who lived from 283-304 and was killed during the great persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Diocletian. Like many Christian martyrs, she was killed after refusing to make sacrifices to the Imperial cult.

She was said to have been killed by a sword, but a much later tradition grew up that she had her eyes gouged out first. In another story, she took out her own eyes because they were so pretty they were attracting unwanted attention for this woman who taken a vow of chastity. Today Saint Lucy is venerated as the protector of good sight.


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