Pane di Santa Lucia - Happy Valentine's Day!
Pane di Santa Lucia - literally "St. Lucy's bread" - is obviously named after the patron saint of light and virginity. Her feast day is observed December 13, during the darkest time of the year, as a means of celebrating hope and light during the Advent season.
St. Lucy was born in 283 - which means the little we know about her life and death is mostly rumored and varied in their accounts. However, I want to focus on one version that, to me, encapsulates the drama and poetry of ancient Rome.
Quick backstory: St. Lucy was born to rich and noble parents; father was Roman, mother was, perhaps, Greek. Father died. Mother got sick; St. Lucy prayed; Mother recovered; St. Lucy vowed herself, her riches and her virginity to God.
According to many accounts, St. Lucy was a looker! She had many suitors. She flouted all of them - having sworn to serve God alone. This did not sit well in the early 300's...
A rejected suitor denounced St. Lucy as a Christian and she was forced by the ruling powers at be into prostitution. But when you live in ancient or medieval times and have God on your side... well, let's just say the ruling powers at be aren't all-powerful.
When the guards came to remove St. Lucy, she was unmovable (even when they hitched her to a team of oxen!) This just made these "powers at be" even more outraged. So they built a fire around her feet to watch her burn - but she remained untouched by the angry flames.
Instead - and this is my favorite part! - she began to spout out prophesy, foretelling the downfall of her persecutors and the powerful Roman empire. Punishment ensued: outraged by her foresight, her persecutors gauged out her eyes!
Saint Lucy is now honored for her chastity and also the dramatically poetic means in which she lost her eyesight. In Syracuse - a small town in Sicily - they celebrate Santa Lucia with this bread. A spiraled loaf of leavened bread with two raisins in place to represent her sight that was lost in her fight for her one true love.
Today is not December 13 and perhaps this is not quite the story we are accustomed to hearing on Valentine's Day, but I was inspired by her devotion. Even if the tale of her life has been twisted over the centuries, the potency of its poetic end (her foresight, her vision of the future, brought about the lost of her own vision) is so very beautiful and has inspired millennia of young women and so many others to live a life of love.