MS M.917/945, pp. 310–311

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St. Lucy

The Netherlands, Utrecht
ca. 1440
7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm)

Purchased on the Belle da Costa Greene Fund with the assistance of the Fellows, 1963

MS M.917/945, pp. 310–311

Lucy holds a martyr's palm and a book in chemise binding. Her neck is pierced by a sword, by which she met her death after having been miraculously delivered from two other fates: prostitution and burning. Aptly, she is the patron of those who suffer from sore throats. A chain of silver and gold fills the surrounding border, the flat gold charms of which are inscribed Lucie virginis (Lucy the Virgin). The silver pieces echo the shapes of the petal within the rosettes embroidered on the textile backdrop, but it is unclear how they may relate to the story of Lucy.


Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help. While the Virgin became, as the Mother of God, almost a goddess herself, saints retained more of their humanity and thus their approachability.


Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern