The Burial of Saint Lucy is one of the most famous paintings by the artist Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio. Painted in 1608, it measures 408 cm x 300 cm and was created to be placed in the Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro in Syracuse, in the place where, according to tradition, the Saint was martyred.

The Lombard artist painted this work during his daring escape from Malta when, passing through Syracuse, his friend Mario Minniti procured him the commission for this painting. His style is clearly recognizable: dark colours in the background and figures emerging from the light; in the foreground, two men prepare the burial for the Saint. Lying on the ground the body of the martyr, who seems almost asleep, were it not for the almost invisible cut in the throat. Alongside, some of the people cry moved by the death of Saint Lucy. Among them we can recognize a bishop and the painter’s self-portrait.

Due to the humidity of the environment which threatened to permanently ruin the canvas, the painting was moved several times. The last transfer seemed to have been in 2009, when the canvas was moved to the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia and was defined “immovable”, that is, it would not undergo other movings. This year, however, the famous art critic Vittorio Sgarbi proposed to display the painting at the MART – Museum  of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rovereto for a temporary exhibition after a short restoration pit-stop carried out by the Central Institute of Restoration of Rome.

Many opposed this transfer, especially art lovers and Syracusans, for the fear that Caravaggio’s work could be damaged. One of the greatest opponents was the Syracusan art historian Prof. Paolo Giansiracusa, who through social media and television has never stopped carrying on his battle. Sgarbi managed to move the painting last September.

The work of art returned home on December 7th, just in time for the Feast of Santa Lucia, which is celebrated on December 13th, and the devotion of the faithful to their patron saint. The Syracusans, in fact, have always considered the canvas as a relic to which one can turn their prayers since they cannot pray to the saint’s body that is buried in Venice.

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Dario Cocuzza


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