The Eyes of St Lucy


Located in Capella Corner in the church of Santi Apostoli, Cannaregio, Venice you will find a relatively unknown 1748 work by Giambattista Tiepolo – The Last Communion of St Lucy.

Lucy was born in Syracuse around the year 300. She was a Sicilian noblewoman who pledged herself to God, taking the vows of celibacy and poverty. The man to whom she was pledged to be married denounced her to the Consul of Syracuse, Pascasius, when he saw she was “throwing away” her fortune to charity for the poor. He accused her of being a Christian, which was an infraction of Imperial law. The Consul tried in vain to get her to renounce her faith, and in order to punish her, committed her to a brothel where she would be raped. It is said that she became so filled with the Holy Spirit that she became an immovable mass: dozens of men, then oxen could not move her body so much as an inch. Finally, after having sprinkled her with urine, which was said to drive out evil spells, then with boiling oil mixed with pitch and resin, the Consul had her throat cut, and according to some sources, her eyes put out. Miraculously however, Lucy could still speak after her throat was cut, continuing to invoke the name of God.

St Lucy is the patron saint of opticians and those suffering with eye diseases, but there are those who claim that St Lucy never existed. Officially however, her body lies in the Church of Santi Geremia e Lucia, Venice.

But, returning to the painting which depicts her martyrdom, the most disturbing and striking aspect of the painting is in the bottom right where there is a platter on which the saint’s eyes are placed, alongside a knife.

So whether St Lucy did ever exist or not, the story around her is tragic and this painting unusual and poignant.

It should be noted that there is another painting by Bassano of The Martyrdom of St Lucy in San Giorgio Maggiore which depicts the scene where men and oxen are trying to drag Lucy to her place of martyrdom.


(Adapted from Secret Venice by Thomaz Jonglez and Paola Zoffoli, published by Jonglez)

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