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E02092: The Latin Martyrdom of *Lucia (virgin and martyr of Syracuse, S00846) is written, presumably in Syracuse, at an uncertain date, by the late 7th c. at the latest. It narrates Lucia’s journey to Catania, where her mother is healed at the tomb of *Agatha (virgin and martyr of Catania, S00794); Lucia’s dream vision at the tomb, in which Agatha predicts that she will become the patron saint of Syracuse; her decision to embrace virginity and give away her family property to the poor; her arrest, tortures endured, and death by the sword in Syracuse; the building of a basilica on the site of her martyrdom, where favours are bestowed on those who visit her tomb. Narrative bearing clear connections, with some differences, to a corresponding Greek text (E07563).

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posted on 2016-12-09, 00:00 authored by mpignot
Martyrdom of Lucia (BHL 4992)


The reputation of the virgin Agatha has reached the whole of Sicily. The people of Syracuse travel forty miles to venerate the tomb (sepulchrum) of Agatha in Catania. The most noble virgin Lucia is one of them, she comes on the saint’s feast day with her mother Euticia who has suffered from bleeding (fluxus sanguinis) for four years without finding any cure. During the liturgy, the Gospel reading is about the woman cured of an issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). Lucia tells her mother to believe in the cure and to go and touch Agatha’s tomb, in order to be healed. They prostrate themselves before the tomb and pray with tears. Lucia falls asleep and sees Agatha surrounded by angels, telling her that, as her sister and virgin of God, she has no need to ask but can effect the miracle herself. Her mother will be cured through their faith. Lucia will become the glory of the city of Syracuse. Lucia awakes in fear and tells her mother that she is cured thanks to Agatha. She asks her mother not to be married to any man, but to keep her virginity for Jesus Christ and give away her dowry. Euticia tells her that she has kept the patrimony of her husband intact for nine years since he died; Lucia will be free to do what she likes with the possessions once her mother dies. Lucia however exhorts her mother to give away her possessions to Christ before she dies instead of leaving them to her.

They return to Syracuse and Lucia frequently discusses the matter with her mother. They take care of the poor and give away properties and precious stones. Lucia’s betrothed hears about it and asks Lucia’s wet-nurse (nutrix), who tells him that the properties have been sold to buy property in his name, which yields more than a thousand solidi. The stupid man believes her and helps with the selling of the properties, but when everything has been given to the poor, widows, orphans, pilgrims, and those serving God, he finds out that he has been tricked. He tells the proconsul Paschasius that Lucia is a Christian and does not live according to the laws of the emperors (leges augustorum).

Lucia is arrested and summoned to offer sacrifice. However, in a long speech, she tells Paschasius that she has spent three years taking care of widows and orphans, and she now offers herself as a sacrifice to God. She contrasts Paschasius’ obedience to the emperors and her obedience to God. Paschasius remarks that she has spent her patrimony with corrupters and speaks like a prostitute (meretrix), but Lucia replies that those worshipping idols and loving temporal goods more than eternal ones are the true corrupters of the mind and body (1 Cor. 15:33).

Paschasius tells her that she will stop speaking when tortured, but she replies that God cannot be restrained from speaking. Paschasius wonders whether she is God, but she replies that she is His servant, quoting Matthew 10:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 3:16. Paschasius tells her that she will be brought to a brothel and there the Holy Spirit will leave her, but she replies that her body will not be polluted without her assent. Paschasius threatens her again but she replies that he cannot bend her will and she is ready for any kind of punishment.

Paschasius tells the brothel keepers to take her to a brothel until she dies. However, they try every means but cannot move her because of the weight of the Holy Spirit. Magicians, soothsayers and pagan priests also fail in the task. Then the proconsul orders her to be covered with urine, thinking that she uses magic. Several oxen are also brought, but they are unable to move her either. Paschasius interrogates Lucia about the magic she uses, but she replies that it is a favour from God. Even ten thousand men would not be able to move her.

Paschasius is tormented as he cannot find a way to kill her, but finally orders a huge fire to be prepared, and pitch, resin and oil be added to it. However she remains untouched and says that she has asked Jesus Christ to overcome the fire. Paschasius’ friends, seeing his distress, order her throat to be pierced by the sword. Nevertheless, when struck, Lucia continues to pray to God and speak to the crowd, announcing to them that the peace of the Church will soon follow after the end of Diocletian’s reign and Maximian’s death. She will be given by the Lord to the city of Syracuse, like her sister Agatha in Catania. Lucia is then pierced by the sword in the stomach. Soon Paschasius is arrested and a report is sent from Sicily to the emperor recording that Paschasius has plundered the whole province. Paschasius is sent to Rome, and after a hearing in the Senate he is sentenced to death. Lucia does not move from the location where she has been hit, and does not die until she receives the mysteries (mysteria sacramentorum) from priests and all the people reply ‘Amen’. This is how she gave up her spirit. In the same place a basilica is built and her prayers and favours are given in abundance to all those who come to her tomb (sepulchrum).

Text: Mombritius 1910, II, 107-109 (no paragraph numbers). Summary: M. Pignot.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lucia, virgin an martyr in Syracuse, c. 303 : S00846 Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania : S00794

Saint Name in Source

Lucia Agatha

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Italy south of Rome and Sicily

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Syracuse Adriatic Sea Adriatic Sea Adriaticum Mare

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Meetings and gatherings of the clergy

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracles experienced by the saint Healing diseases and disabilities Changing abilities and properties of the body Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Monarchs and their family Women Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Pagans Relatives of the saint Aristocrats Officials The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves) Crowds Angels

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Construction of cult building to contain relics


Epic martyrdoms The Martyrdom of Lucia is an anonymous literary account of martyrdom written long after the great persecutions of Christians that provide the background of the narrative. It is part of a widely spread literary genre, that scholars often designate as "epic" Martyrdoms (or Passiones), to be distinguished from earlier, short and more plausible accounts, apparently based on the genuine transcripts of the judicial proceedings against the martyrs. These texts narrate the martyrdom of local saints, either to promote a new cult or to give further impulse to existing devotion. They follow widespread stereotypes mirroring the early authentic trials of martyrs, but with a much greater degree of detail and in a novel-like style. Thus they narrate how the protagonists are repeatedly questioned and tortured under the order of officials or monarchs, because they refuse to sacrifice to pagan gods but profess the Christian faith. They frequently refer to miracles performed by the martyrs and recreate dialogues between the protagonists. The narrative generally ends with the death of the martyrs (often by beheading) and their burial. These texts are literary creations bearing a degree of freedom in the narration of supposedly historical events, often displaying clear signs of anachronism. For these reasons, they have been generally dismissed as historical evidence and often remain little known. However, since most certainly date from within the period circa 400-800, often providing unique references to cult, they are an essential source to shed new light on the rise of the cult of saints. The Martyrdom of Lucia There is one main and early Latin version of the Martyrdom of Lucia (BHL 4992), while there is a Greek version (BHG 995; see E07563), bearing clear connections to the Latin, with some notable differences towards the end of the narrative. In the Greek Paschasius is not chained, Lucia does not receive mysteries before dying, and she is beheaded. The Latin version is widespread in manuscripts, with close to 200 manuscripts preserved: see the database Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Manuscripta ( and the list in Goullet 2014 (attached cd-rom). The earliest are from the 8th and 9th centuries: Brussels, Bibliothèque des Bollandistes, 14, f. 136r-137v (9th-10th c.); Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, 412, f. 204v-207r (9th c.); Munich, BSB, Clm 4554, f. 125v(b) (8th c.); Montpellier, BIU Med., H. 55, f. 74r-76r (9th c.); Orléans, Médiathèque 341, f. 117-125 (9th-10th c.); Paris, BNF, lat. 12598, f. 99v-103r (8th-9th c.); Paris, BNF, lat. 5296D, f. 80r-84v (9th c.); St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek 548, f. 159-167 (8th c.); Stuttgart, Würtembergische Landesbibliothek, HB XIV. 15, f. 209r(a) (9th c.); Turin, Bibioteca Nazionale, D.V.3, f. 72v-76v (8th c.); Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 5771, f. 163v-165v (9th-10th c.); Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, Mp. Th. Q. 15, f. 191v-194r (9th c.); Zürich, ZB, SB C 10i, f. 274r-274v (9th c.).


The Martyrdom provides evidence both about veneration of Lucia in Syracuse and Agatha in Catania as patron saints. It also mentions, in the case of Agatha, gatherings and liturgy celebrated on her feast day, and healings performed at her tomb. The hagiographer aims to portray Lucia as the equivalent of Agatha in Syracuse, so it can be assumed that it was written at a time when Agatha’s cult was already popular. It ends with mentions of a basilica built on the site of Lucia's martyrdom and miracles happening at her tomb, as in the case of Agatha. Besides sharing features found in various martyrdom accounts about virgins, such as condemnation to the brothel (see Rizzo Nervo 1995), the narrative shares specific contacts with the Martyrdom of Agatha (E01916): for instance, like Agatha, Lucia is questioned and tortured by the governor of Sicily, who in the end is rejected by the local people while the saint becomes the patron of the city. The dating of the Latin Martyrdom of Lucia is uncertain, but it must have been written by the late 7th century, when it is used by Aldhelm (E06578 and E06659). Later it is also used by Bede in his Martyrology (E05684), and is found in manuscripts from the 8th century. Latin repertories situate it with uncertainty in the 6th century, as with the Martyrdom of Agatha (Clavis Patrum Latinorum 2204; Gryson, R., Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques Latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut moyen âge, 2 vols. (Freiburg, 2007), I, 75). Lanéry 2010 underlines borrowings from our Martyrdom in the Roman martyrdom of Lucia and Geminianus (E05001), often dated to the 7th century. For a more detailed discussion of its dating and its relation to the Greek version, see Milazzo-Rizzo Nervo 1988, and for a summary of scholarly discussions, with more bibliography, see Milazzo 2009.


Edition (BHL 4992): Mombritius, B., Sanctuarium seu vitae sanctorum, 2 vols. with additions and corrections by A. Brunet and H. Quentin (Paris, 1910), II, 107-109. The original edition was published c. 1480. Further reading: Bertini, F., Isetta, S., “Passio Luciae. BHL 4992,” in: Goullet, M. (ed.), Le légendier de Turin. MS. D.V.3 de la Bibliothèque Nationale Universitaire (Florence, 2014), 373-377. Lanéry, C., "Hagiographie d'Italie (300-550). I. Les Passions latines composées en Italie,” in: Philippart, G. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 15-369, at 285-286. Milazzo, V., and Rizzo Nervo, F., “Lucia tra Sicilia, Roma e Bisanzio: itinerario di un culto (IV-IX secolo),” in: Pricoco, S. (ed.), Storia della Sicilia e tradizione agiografica nella tarda antichità. Atti del Convegno di Studi (Catania, 20-22 maggio 1986) (Soveria Mannelli, 1988), 95-135. Milazzo, V., “La Sicilia: Agata e Lucia. Note storiografiche,” in: Tillatti, A., Trolese, F.G.B. (eds.), Giustina e le altre. Sante e culti femminili in Italia settentrionale dalla prima età cristiana al secolo XII. Atti del VI convegno di studio dell'Associazione italiana per lo studio della santità, dei culti e dell'agiografia, Padova, 4-6 ottobre 2004 (Rome, 2009), 243-270. Rizzo Nervo, F., “La vergine e il lupanare. Storiografia, romanzo, agiografia,” in: La Narrativa cristiana antica. Codici narrativi, strutture formali, schemi retorici. XXIII° Incontro di studiosi dell’Antichità cristiana. Roma, 5-7 maggio 1994 (Rome, 1995), 91-99.

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