Syracuse and Ortygia Island
Syracuse and Ortygia Island› Attraction
Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia
Our Rating Hours Tues–Sun 11am–4pm Phone 0931/65328 Prices Free
Sicracusans get a spring in their step when passing the fanciful facade of the city’s favorite church, crossed with a wrought-iron balcony from which cloistered nuns once watched goings on in Piazza Duomo. St. Lucia, a plucky 4th-century Siracusan virgin, is the city’s patron. Born of wealth, from an early age she adopted Christian principles and decided to give her worldly goods to the poor. Her piety and generosity annoyed the young man to whom she’d been betrothed, and out of spite for seeing Lucia’s sizable dowry squandered, he denounced her to Roman authorities. Lucia was condemned to prostitution, but refused to be dragged off to a brothel. Authorities tied her to a pillar and lit a fire beneath her; she proved to be flame-resistant. Finally, a soldier plunged a sword into her throat. You’ll see depictions of this gruesome act throughout Siracusa and the rest of Sicily, where the saint is very popular (tamer versions show her holding the sword that killed her). The church’s prize is Caravaggio’s “Burial of St. Lucia,” commissioned in 1608 when the artist had just escaped from a prison in Malta and fled to Siracusa. Note how, with his characteristic lighting, the artist highlights the muscular gravediggers, showing their brute strength, while the mourners seem small and meek in the background. A shaft of light falls on Lucia’s face and neck, highlighting the stab wound that killed her; she is a study in serenity, having entered the heavenly kingdom.
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