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E07563: The Greek Martyrdom of *Lucia (virgin and martyr of Syracuse, S00846), detailing the martyr's trial and execution by a governor of Sicily, is probably written in the 5th-7th century in Syracuse. In it, Lucia's cult is intentionally presented as modelled on that of the earlier *Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania (S00794).

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posted on 2019-05-21, 00:00 authored by Nikolaos
Martyrdom of Loukia (BHG 995)


§ 1: The fame of the martyr Agatha of Catania spreads throughout the provinces and a noble Syracusan virgin, Loukia, arrives at her shrine together with her mother Eutychia, who for 40 years has suffered from a flow of blood. As the Gospel passage of the woman with the flow of blood is read, Loukia urges her mother to have faith in the martyr's healing power.

§ 2: As the women pay homage at the saint's tomb, Loukia is seized by sleep and has a dream vision of Agatha surrounded by angels. The martyr informs Loukia that her faith has healed her mother; just as Agatha herself is the patron of Catania, thus Loukia will be the instrument of salvation for Syracuse. Loukia awakens and informs her mother that she has been healed; however, she also pleads with her not to arrange a marriage for her. She asks to receive any wealth that was meant for her dowry instead for the purpose of her joining Christ.

§ 3: Eutychia reveals the inheritance of Loukia's late father has not diminished but rather grown in her care; after her death Loukia may do with it as she will. Loukia replies that this is not pleasing to Christ, but that her mother should rather surrender their wealth to Christ while she is still alive. The women return to Syracuse and begin the task of selling their property and distributing the money to the poor. Upon hearing of this, Loukia's betrothed inquires why their valuables are being liquidated. Eutychia tells him his fiancée has discovered a plot of land for sale that will provide an income of 1000 [gold] coins per year, and wishes to purchase it in his name [obviously a metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven, like the Gospel Parable of the Pearl]; the man promises to provide half the buying price. Loukia, however, sells everything and distributes the money as charity.

§ 4: When Loukia's betrothed then learns she keeps company with Christians, he reports her to the governor Paschasios as disobeying imperial commands. Paschasios has Loukia arrested and tries to force her to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Loukia replies that charity towards widows, orphans and foreigners is a true sacrifice; since she no longer has anything else to offer, she offers herself as a sacrifice to Christ. Paschasios mocks her words as folly, but Loukia replies that just as he obeys the emperors, so she obeys Christ.

§ 5: Paschasios and Loukia dispute; the governor accuses the maiden of dispersing her property to dissolute persons, but Loukia replies that it is pagans like the governor who are truly dissolute in preferring earthly delights to eternal joy and worshipping the Devil rather than God.

§ 6: Paschasios threatens to place the maiden in a brothel so that she may be corrupted and lose the Holy Spirit, but Loukia explains to him that this is not how God works; rather, God sees and judges the conscience and disposition of all. Loukia's body is in the governor's power, but her mind is not, and thus he is unable to cause her harm.

§ 7: Paschasios, enraged, orders the girl to be taken to the brothel and calls upon the public to defile her, but the Holy Spirit causes her to become completely immovable. A troop of soldiers attempts to push her and then to drag her with ropes, but she remains unshakeable like a mountain. Perturbed, the governor summons pagan priests and sorcerers to cause Loukia to be moved through prayers, but this too has no effect. The vile priests [Gk. μιερεῦσιν, to be preferred to the editor's unnecessary correction μαγιερεύσιν 'sorcerer-priests'] advise Paschasios that she is using magic, and he commands human urine to be poured on her [i.e. as a counter-spell]. Next, he has a multitude of oxen attempt to drag her, but to no avail. Paschasios demands to know what kind of magic Loukia is using; she replies it is not magic but the power of God; not even ten thousand men could make her budge.

§ 8: The governor is in deep consternation, trying to figure out how to deal with the girl, who challenges him to believe in her God. Furious at his public humiliation at Loukia's hands, he commands his servants to light a great pyre with pitch, resin, torches and oil. Loukia, unharmed and resolute, tells him she has prayed to Christ to not be overcome by the fire, in order to display the power of Christ to the faithful and to remove the blindness of arrogance from unbelievers.

§ 9: The governor's friends persuade him to have her executed by the sword. Loukia kneels, prays and then addresses the crowd, foretelling the coming peace of the church, Diocletian's fall from power and Maximian's death on the very same day; just as the city of Catania honours saint Agatha, so Loukia's audience will honour her and keep Christ's commands. Having finished her speech, she is decapitated on 13 December. A church functioning as a healing shrine is later built on the spot: 'in the very place where she surrendered her spirit, a church was built for her, in which, through her mediation, those who approach her relic with faith receive beneficence and healing of afflictions' (ἐν αὐτῷ δὲ τῷ τόπῳ ἐν ᾧ τὸ πνεῦμα ἀπέδοτο, ᾠκοδομήθη αὐτῇ ναός· ἐν ᾧ, αὐτῆς πρεσβευούσης εὐεργεσίαν καὶ παθῶν ἴασιν λαμβάνουσιν οἱ πίστει προσερχόμενοι τῷ λειψάνῳ αὐτῆς).

Text: Rossi Taibbi 1959, 50-70.
Summary: N. Kälviäinen.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Lucia, virgin and martyr of Syracuse : S00846 Agatha, virgin and martyr of Catania : S00794

Saint Name in Source

Λουκία Ἀγάθη

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Accounts of martyrdom


  • Greek

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

Martyr shrine (martyrion, bet sāhedwātā, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death Apparition, vision, dream, revelation Power over elements (fire, earthquakes, floods, weather) Miracle at martyrdom and death Other specified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Family Aristocrats The socially marginal (beggars, prostitutes, thieves) Angels Officials

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body


The early Greek Martyrdom of Lucia is (BHG 995) is today known to be preserved in a total of 16 manuscripts (10th-15th century), all of Italo-Greek origin; in addition, the readings of a further manuscript, now lost, are preserved in the editio prima of Di Giovanni (see Rossi Taibbi 1959, 18-19 and 33-38): This text is an early Greek martyrdom account bearing some or all of the hallmarks of the 'epic' subgenre (Martyrdoms characterised by a relative detachment from historical reality and often including extravagant, even fantastical, elements; see H. Delehaye, Les Passions des martyres et les genres littéraires, Brussels, 1966 (2nd ed.), 171-226). The Martyrdom also exists in a Latin version (see E02092) which Rossi-Taibbi 1959, 19-23, argues is derived from the Greek. The clearest differences between the two versions are located in the last section of the narrative (in the Latin, Lucia is not beheaded but stabbed in the stomach, and she does not die before receiving communion; also, after her death the governor Paschasius is put on trial and sentenced to death by the Senate for looting his province of Sicily). The simpler ending of the Greek version being more in line with most typical martyrdom accounts of this kind, it is not inconceivable that these elements might be later embellishments in the Latin branch of the tradition. One wonders if it would be too far-fetched to see in Paschasius' trial before the Senate in Rome an intentional reminiscence of the trial of C. Verres in 70 BC, by a redactor familiar with Cicero's Verrine orations.


For a discussion of the Martyrdom as evidence for Lucia's cult, see E02092.


Text with Italian translation: Rossi Taibbi, G., Martirio di santa Lucia. Vita di santa Marina (Istituto Siciliano di Studi Bizantini e Neogreci. Testi 6 - Vite dei santi Siciliani II; Palermo, 1959), 50-71. Further reading: See the bibliography in E02092. Cf. also Constantinou, S., Female Corporeal Performances: Reading the Body in Byzantine Passions and Lives of Holy Women (Uppsala, 2005), 27 and 30-58.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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