Santa Lucia of the gondoliers brought home to Sicily after a millennium

After wandering around Europe for more than 1,100 years, little Saint Lucy of Syracuse, the virgin martyr who - after an appalling death - became known as "the immovable one", has come home.

After wandering around Europe for more than 1,100 years, little Saint Lucy of Syracuse, the virgin martyr who - after an appalling death - became known as "the immovable one", has come home.

Thousands of devotees of the saint waited for her remains in Syracuse, Sicily, this week, waving white handkerchiefs to greet the arrival of the remains of what Italians call "the most kidnapped saint in Paradise". Venice had been home to her for so long that the gondoliers' song "Santa Lucia" had become part of the lagoon city's identity. But after a 12-year struggle for possession between the two cities, the patron saint of eyesight, of the blind, of lucidity and of photographers has come back to the ancient city where she was born.

Little is known for certain about the life of Lucia of Syracuse, but she was one of many Christian victims of the 3rd century Roman Emperor Diocletian. She was the child of wealthy parents but her father died when she was still young, and in adolescence she secretly took a vow of chastity.

Her mother, Eutychia, knowing nothing of the vow, arranged her marriage to a prominent pagan in Syracuse. Lucy managed for years to keep the man at bay, and finally explained why to her mother. She was in a good mood, having undertaken a pilgrimage with Lucy that led to the miraculous cure of a disease from which she had been suffering, and backed her daughter's resolution.

The young man was furious, and denounced Lucy as a Christian to the governor of Sicily.

The bitter martyrdom duly unfolded. Lucy was to be punished, like many Christian girls, by being forced into prostitution. But when the guards came to drag her to the brothel, they could not move her.

Faggots were piled up around her and set alight: Lucy refused to burn. Her eyeballs were gouged out - God presented her with a new pair (she is often depicted holding out one set of eyeballs on a plate). Finally they stabbed her through the throat. She died on 13 December 304, aged 21 and still a virgin.

One thousand seven hundred years plus a few days later, she is home again - though given her tumultuous after-life, it would be a rash person who bet on her having a peaceful future.

Her first half-millennium was the best: she rested in the church in Syracuse built in her memory. But in 878, as marauding Islamic Saracens threatened Syracuse, the relics were put in a secret place.

But not safe enough: in 1039 a Byzantine general, Maniacus, stole them and removed them to Constantinople. In 1204 the great 41st Doge of Venice, Enrico Dandolo, in his eighties and half-blind, the man who at a stroke turned Venice into an imperial power, stole Lucy's corpse from Byzantium.

She was brought to Venice and installed in the church of San Giorgio, but was to move twice more inside the city, arriving in 1313 at the city church named in her honour. But Lucy still had centuries of wandering ahead of her.

The industrial revolution arrived: in 1860 the church of Santa Lucia was demolished to make way for the railway station. Lucy shifted to the church of St Geremia. A century later, on 7 November 1981, robbers stole all her bones, except her head. Police recovered them five weeks later, on her saint's day. The priest of San Giorgio, desperate at losing her, lashed himself to one of her arms; to mollify him, he was allowed to retain the arm. Other parts of the corpse found their way to Rome, Naples, Verona, Lisbon, Milan, Germany, France.

Witnesses at the ceremony on Wednesday said she was looking good: her cranium resting on a red cushion, a silver mask over her face, her body clothed in a red garment with a golden fringe, dotted with pearls. "It's as if she was mummified," said Bishop Giuseppe Costantini, who according to Corriere della Sera newspaper, fought "like a lion" for the return.

He said: "For those who feel the universal breath of the Church, distance is of no importance. Whether Santa Lucia is in Venice, Syracuse or Sydney it's all the same." This is a fine example of Christian hypocrisy - Syracuse is glad and proud to have her back.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn