The featured image is of a 50c postal stamp issued by St Lucia commemorating National Day, 13th December 1971. Beneath the ‘National Day’ banner is a coat of arms, but what is the significance of the female character whose image appears on the left of the stamp? The answer is associated with the naming of the Caribbean island itself.
St Lucia is one of only a few countries in the world named after a woman – in this case, the historical figure, Saint Lucy of Syracuse. Legend suggests that French sailors were shipwrecked on the island on 13 December, the feast day of Saint Lucy. Subsequently, the island was named in her honour.
Saint Lucy of Syracuse was a martyr who died during the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Romain Empire. According to tradition, Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year 283 AD. Lucy distributed a great part of her wealth among the poor which aggravated the Romain elite. When guards arrived to persecute her, they were unable to physically move her. Bundles of wood were heaped about her but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by sword, thrust into her throat. The image on the stamp is from a baroque period painting by the school of the Italian artist, Dolci Carlo (1616-1686) and depicts Saint Lucy of Syracuse with the wound to her throat clearly visible.
The Christian feast of day Saint Lucy is observed on 13 December and, as well as being celebrated in Scandinavia and Italy, is also commemorated as National Day in St Lucia. The 1971 issue included four stamps, all with identical design but each of different denomination (5c, 10c, 25c and 50c) and background colour to the coat of arms.
The St Lucia coat of arms comprises a blue shield with a stool at the centre (of traditional African design), two Tudor Roses (symbolising England) and two Fleur de Lis (symbolising St Lucia). The shield is supported by two Saint Lucian parrots, a species found only in Saint Lucia. Beneath the shield is the national motto ‘The land, the people, the light’. Incidentally, Saint Lucy of Syracuse is also regarded as saint of light – Lucy sharing the same Latin root with the word for light, lux.
To view postal issues of the St Lucia, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.