Luke of Sicily
Our Venerable and God-bearing Father Luke of Sicily, also Leo Luke of Corleone, Leoluca, Leone Luca or Leo Luke (ca.815/818 - ca. 910/915) was the Abbot and Wonderworker of the Monastery of Mount Mula in Calabria, and a founder of Italo-Greek monasticism in southern Italy.[note 1]
Born in the Sicilian town of Corleone, he died about a hundred years later a centenarian, after eighty years of monastic life,[note 2] in Monteleone Calabro, now Vibo Valentia, in Calabria. Today he is a patron saint of both towns, and his feast day is celebrated on March 1.
Saint Luke was born in Corleone, Sicily in the 9th century AD (c.815 to 818 AD), on the eve of the Saracen invasion of Sicily.[note 3] His parents Leo and Theoktiste baptized him Leo. They were a pious and wealthy family who raised him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He was orphaned at an early age when his parents died, and devoted himself to managing the estate and supervising the herds as a shepherd. In the solitude of the fields he realized that he had a call to religious life, so he sold the estate, gave the money to the poor, and went to the monastery of St. Philip in Agira, in the province of Enna, Sicily.
It is not known how long he stayed at the monastery at Agira, but due to the raids of the Saracens, he left from there and went to Calabria.[note 4] Before going to Calabria however, he made a special point of going on pilgrimage to visit the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Rome.[note 5]
In Calabria, he went to the Monastery of Mula, at Mount Mula (Monte La Mula ), one of the highest peaks of the Orsomarso mountains (1935 m), near Cassano. Here he became a monk, excelling in the virtues and in obedience, remaining there for six years.
Afterwards he departed together with the Hegoumen of the monastery Christopher, and they made their way to the mountainous region of Merkourion[note 6] in northern Calabria, in the Pollino area of the Southern Appenines, an important center of monastic settlement which is referred to in several of the Vitae as the "New Thebaid". Here they founded a new monastery, living there in asceticism for another seven years.
Once more they left and moved on to Vena (modern Avena, Calabria) to continue the spiritual struggle for another ten years. Here they built another monastery, which by the time of Hegoumenos Christopher's death had more than one-hundred monks in it. Saint Luke himself lived the solitary life nearby at Mormanno, Calabria.
A little later, after the death of Abbot Christopher, Saint Luke became Abbot of the Monastery of Mount Mula. Here he began new ascetic struggles, and Holy God granted to him the gift of Wonderworking, and many faithful flocked to the holy ascetic to receive his blessing and be healed. The Venerable Luke healed the sick, exorcized demons, raised paralytics, and guided the lost towards the path of salvation. He prayed without ceasing, and remained out in the cold up to twenty days, in order to intensify his ascetic struggle.
It is said that he lived the last days of his life in meditation, fasting and ecstatic raptures. In old age, he called the monks to come to him, and foretold his end. He delegated the responsibility of the position of Hegoumen to the monk Theodore, and assigned the priest Euthymios as his assistant. Having received Holy Communion, the Venerable Luke fell asleep in peace and was buried in the church of the Blessed Theotokos.
Veneration among Roman Catholics
News of Saint Luke's death spread slowly to Corleone, and it is only in the 13th century that there is evidence of a church dedicated to him in his birthplace. In 1420 there are also references to a Brotherhood of San Leoluca.
Saint Luke's intercession is credited with saving the city of Corleone during an outbreak of the plague of 1575, and he was made the patron saint of that town. In 1624 he was made the patron saint of Vibo Valentia as well.
In addition, the apparition of Saint Leo Luke and Saint Anthony is credited with preventing a Bourbon invasion of Corleone on 27 May 1860.
In Vibo Valentia in Calabria, during his feast day on March 1, the local fire brigade pay him homage by placing a crown of flowers at the feet of his statue which is located high on the façade of the Cathedral Church of Santa Maria Maggiore e San Leoluca.
Some historians assert that Saint Luke was buried in Monteleone Calabro, now Vibo Valentia, in Calabria, in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (i.e. Cathedral Church of Santa Maria Maggiore e San Leoluca).
However on Sunday December 10, 2006, the Italian daily newspaper La Sicilia, based in Catania, Sicily, ran a full page story stating that the relics of Saint Leoluca had been found in the municipality of San Gregorio d'Ippona, about 2 km southeast of the city of Vibo Valentia. It stated that they were located in the grotto of the Church of Santa Ruba (La Chiesa di Santa Ruba), and that they were confirmed by paleontological analysis. According to professor Gregorio Vaianella, the church of Santa Ruba was dedicated to 'Our Lady of Health' (Madonna della Sanità).[note 8]
- ↑ "The term "Italo-Greek monasticism" refers to the implantation and history of Byzantine monasticism in Sicily and southern Italy. By the mid 9th c. Sicily was already reputed to be the home of numerous Greek hermits and small gatherings of monks famed for their ascetic experience. Substantial documentary evidence for the presence of Byzantine monks in southern Italy first appears in the 9th and 10th cc. and consists primarily in the lives of the great ascetic saints of this region."
- (Robert E. Sinkewicz. "Italo-Greek". In: Richard Barrie Dobson. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Volume 2 (K-Z). Eds.: André Vauchez, Michael Lapidge. Transl: Adrian Walford. Routledge, 2000. p.974.)
- ↑ The island of Sicily passed to the Greek Rite during the six years when Constans II made Syracuse his residence and the capital of the Byzantine Empire (i.e. starting between 663AD - 668AD).
- (Lynn White Jr. "The Byzantinization of Sicily." The American Historical Review. Vol. 42, No. 1 (Oct., 1936). p.5.)
- ↑ The first Arab battle against Byzantine troops occurred on July 15, 827, near Mazara, resulting in an Aghlabid victory. It took over a century for Byzantine Sicily to be conquered. Syracuse held out for a long time, and Taormina fell in 902. Eventually all of Sicily was conquered by the Arabs in 965, and the Emirate of Sicily was formed, an Islamic state on the island of Sicily which existed from 965 to 1072.
- ↑ With the Arab invasion of Sicily (from 827 AD through to 878 AD) many monks left the island and took refuge in Calabria.
- ↑ Legally monks could not change monasteries, but provincial monks were strikingly mobile. Elias the Younger (Elias of Calabria, August 17), sojourning in Sicily, North Africa, the Levant, Greece and Italy was the best travelled of the Italo-Greek monks whose lives are known. But even the least travelled of these saw much of South Italy and usually Sicily as well as Rome. There are numerous examples of monks, singly or in groups, who migrated into greater solitude to escape popularity. Nilos the Younger (September 26), who died in 1004 left Rossano with all his monks to live amongst the Latins in order to evade the obligations entailed by his fame among the Greeks. When the proximity of Monte Cassino ceased to please him, Nilos again uprooted his community, establishing it first at Serperi and later at Grottaferrata. This individual and communal transience must have undermined the position of the bishops, if not made their control of monasteries virtually impossible."
- Ann Wharton Epstein. The Problem of Provincialism: Byzantine Monasteries in Cappadocia and Monks in South Italy. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol. 42 (1979), pp.44-45.
- ↑ See: Mercurion. Italian Wikipedia.
- ↑ The current church lies on the spot of a former Byzantine cathedral, probably of the ninth century, which was heavily damaged during the earthquakes of 1638 and 1659. In 1680, construction on the new church was begun, based on the designs of Francesco Antonio Curatoli.
- ↑ Confirming the hagiographical account in the Great Synaxaristes that he was buried in a church of the Blessed Theotokos.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 (Italian) SAN LEOLUCA. Enrosadira.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Rosemary Morris. Monks and Laymen in Byzantium, 843-1118. Cambridge University Press, 2003. p.173.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 March 1. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Great Synaxaristes: (Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Λουκᾶς ὁ ἐκ Σικελίας. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
- ↑ Robert E. Sinkewicz. "Italo-Greek". In: Richard Barrie Dobson. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Volume 2 (K-Z). Eds.: André Vauchez, Michael Lapidge. Transl: Adrian Walford. Routledge, 2000. pp.974-975.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 (Italian) San Leoluca. Italian Wikipedia.)
- ↑ (Italian) Giorgio Leone. I BENI CULTURALI DEL VIBONESE. SITUAZIONE ATTUALE – PROSPETTIVE FUTURE. 27 – 28 – 29 DICEMBRE 1995.
- ↑ Saint Leolucas of Corleone. Saints.SPQN.com. 25 February 2010.
- ↑ (Italian) Trovate le spoglie di San Leoluca. LA SICILIA. DOMENICA 10 DICEMBRE 2006.
- ↑ Santa Ruba. San Gregorio D'ippona.
- March 1. Latin Saints of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Rome.
- Rosemary Morris. Monks and Laymen in Byzantium, 843-1118. Cambridge University Press, 2003. 356pp. ISBN 9780521319508
- Robert E. Sinkewicz. "Italo-Greek". In: Richard Barrie Dobson. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Volume 2: K-Z. Eds.: André Vauchez, Michael Lapidge. Transl: Adrian Walford. Routledge, 2000. pp.974-975. ISBN 9781579582821
- Alban Butler. Butler's Lives of the Saints: March. Volume 3. Revised Ed.. Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999. 256pp. (see: p.11).
- Saint Leolucas of Corleone. Saints.SPQN.com. 25 February 2010.
- Lynn White Jr. "The Byzantinization of Sicily." The American Historical Review. Vol. 42, No. 1 (Oct., 1936). p.5.
- Ann Wharton Epstein. The Problem of Provincialism: Byzantine Monasteries in Cappadocia and Monks in South Italy. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol. 42 (1979), pp. 28-46.
- Leoluca. Wikipedia.
- Great Synaxaristes: (Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Λουκᾶς ὁ ἐκ Σικελίας. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
- (Italian) San Leoluca. Italian Wikipedia.
- (Italian) SAN LEOLUCA. Enrosadira.
- (Italian) Trovate le spoglie di San Leoluca. LA SICILIA. DOMENICA 10 DICEMBRE 2006.
- (Italian) Francesco Albanese. San Leoluca protettore di Vibo Valentia. Il Duomo di S. Maria Maggiore e San Leoluca. Tip. Grafica sud, Vibo V. s.d. (ma 1979), pp.7-39.
- Orthodox Christianity in Southern Italy. Saints Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox Church.