|Traditional portraits show eyes on a plate|
The basic story is that when Lucy rebuffed this man's advances, he raised the stakes by going to the Roman authorities and denouncing her as a Christian. She doubled down by giving her dowry away to the poor to make herself a less appealing marriage prospect. He hung in, though, hoping to win her with or without a dowry. The praetor who questioned her, Paschasius, was sympathetic to the young suitor's purpose, trying to coerce or frighten her into submission. Just a sprinkle of incense in front of an imperial altar would divorce her from the Christian god, following which she -- penniless and godless -- would need a husband to survive. At least, that was the plan.
The sequence of events is a little unclear, but here's the way I see it. Between the threats and the mockery, Paschasius slipped in a little flattery on the suitor's behalf. Lucy then asked him what the man especially liked about her. Paschasius indicated her beautiful eyes. Lucy then tore her eyes out of her head, passed them to the praetor, and declared that the young man could have those if he liked them so well, but he could not have her.
|modern portrait by LW Ivec|
The execution is well-attested from the time of the Diocletianic persecutions. The eye-gouging bit was added a thousand years later, perhaps as a play on Lucia's derivation from lux, lucis, meaning light. It is helpful too to have a patron saint for the blind, I guess.
|Lussekatt: Lucia Maria Major|
Our cat Lucia, most ancient of days, was named for Saint Lucia as she and her brother (long since departed) came to our house in the Christmas season.