Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 26, 2014

Lucy’s eyes

Some religious paintings can be very gruesome indeed. A little known painting by Tiepolo, The Last Communion of St Lucy, in the Capella Corner of Santi Apostoli in Venice, shows poor Lucy after her eyes have been put out. They are displayed on a tray at the bottom of the painting.





Lucy was a Sicilian noblewoman born in Syracuse around 300AD. She pledged herself to God, taking a vow of chastity and poverty. The man she was promised to in marriage denounced her to the Consul, accusing her of being christian.

She was committed to a brothel, but, filled with the Holy Spirit, she became immovable, and dozens of men could not move her. Finally, after having her sprinkled with urine (said to drive out evil spirits), then boiling oil mixed with pitch and resin, the Consul had the saint’s throat cut and her eyes put out.

Miraculously, Lucy could still speak after her throat had been cut, continuing to invoke the name of God. Poor Lucy is the patron saint of opticians and those suffering from eye diseases.

The church of Santi Apostoli is in Cannaregio, not far from the Ca d’Oro or Rialto Vaporetto stop.


We were pointed in Lucy’s direction by Secret Venice by Thomas Jonglez and Paolo Zoffoli…the best Venice guide book.



  1. Well done Debra! Three years ago I published an historical research about St. Lucy and her iconography. The Tiepolo painting in Venice is surely one of the most important, together with the Caravaggio canvas in Siracusa. Yes, the tradition tells about her eyes, but historical researches say that she was decapitated. Always In Venice (in St.Geremia and St. Lucy church) you may admire the sacred reliquary of St. Lucy.

    • Next time I go to Venice I will seek out your suggestion, thank you.

  2. Yes, I agree with Roberto Alborghetti. Most researchers Believe that St Lucy was decapitated. There are many legends surrounding her and some of them are quite gruesomo, but then Diocletian’s persecution was without mercy. It is believed that St Lucy’s appointment as patroness of the blind people is due to her name, as it comes from the Latin word “lux” which means light. This is why in Scandinavia they celebrate her day, the 13th of December, with the “Festival of Lights” in which young girls dressed in white with a red sash ( a reminder of Lucy’s martyrdom) also wear crowns with lit candles.
    In any case, a most interesting painting. Thank you, Debra, for sharing it with us.

    • There is also an argument that she didn’t exist at all.

  3. That is stunningly gruesome!!

    • I hope it is a tall tale.

  4. as bad as saint agata having her breasts cut off as we saw in catania sicily – we thought she was bringing a dish of two puddings before her

    • There is a church in Rome lined with these gruesome paintings.

  5. Thank you for sharing

    • It is an interest tale.

  6. What a gruesome tale…

  7. Thanks for this post. My brother has problems with one eye due to a bad surgery and since we are Catholic I will find out about this Saint.

    • Poor Lucy really suffered for her sainthood.

  8. Wow … now there’s a story I didn’t know. I wonder how many people look at the painting, and don’t notice the plate with the eyes.

    • That is quite possible. We may not have noticed the eyes had it not been for the book.

  9. One can learn a lot from other bloggers, that’s one reason why I enjoy reading your blog. You are attentive to detail. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your kind comments. I do like to look for the details.

  10. A grisly tale, Debra, and just before my bedtime too. 😕

    • Grisly indeed. I hope these are just stories.

  11. Very nice story of physical body over soul and spirit. Love the focus shot transforming to the far shot. It’s like watching a movie… I think that’s brilliant presentation of the images you took.

    • They really thought up some horrible punishments for anyone who didn’t do the expected thing.

  12. Oh my goodness, those were some gruesome times! 😮

  13. All in the name of religion !

  14. Wow. That’s such an amazing story…and gory.

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  16. […] In the church above we found “Lucy’s eyes” on a previous when we were on a quest to find things in Secret Venice, a book filled with interesting things to discover. Lucy’s eyes […]

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