Emily M. DeArdo

writer

The Real Lucy Pevensie

Catholicism, books, women saints seriesEmily DeArdo2 Comments
Good evening,” said the Faun. “Excuse me—I don’t want to be inquisitive, —but should I be right in thinking that you are a Daughter of Eve?”
”My name’s Lucy,” she said, not quite understanding him.
— C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter Two, "What Lucy Found There"

Lucy Pevensie has always been one of my favorite literary characters. I liked her better than the uptight Susan, and definitely better than Mary Ingalls. Lucy, to me, was right up there with Half-Pint and Anne Shirley. 

I'd always thought Lucy was, like Anne, fictional. I was very pleasantly surprised when I realized that not only was Lucy real, but that C.S. Lewis had been inspired by the life of Bl. Lucy of Narni, a Lay Dominican from 15th Century Italy.

(Three guesses on where he got "Narnia".....)

Lucy Brocadelli was born on December 13, 1476, In Narni, in the region of Umbria. She was one of 11 children born to Bartolomeo and Gentilina Cassio. She had a vision of the Blessed Mother when she was five, followed a few years later by another vision where Mary was accompanied by St. Dominic. She was inspired to become a Dominican nun, but when her father died and she was left in the custody of an uncle, this plan was thwarted, as he tried to get her married as quickly as possible. Eventually, Lucy entered into a virginal marriage with Count Pietro di Alessio of Milan. 

Despite her busy social schedule as  a countess, Lucy devoted much time to prayer, instructed the servants in Catholicism, and was well-known for her charity to the poor. Her husband allowed these "strange" behaviors, until a servant told him that he had seen Lucy entertaining a handsome young man in her room. When Pietro went to confront his wife, he saw her studying a large crucifix. The servant said the man she'd entertained looked just like the carving of Christ on the cross.

Eventually, though, Pietro's patience ran out, and her locked her in her room for the whole of a Lenten season one year. She managed to escape and became a third order Dominican, which led her husband to burn down the convent where she'd received the Dominican habit. 

In 1495, Lucy joined a community of lay Dominicans. She received the stigmata and was frequently found in spiritual ecstasy. Her fame spread so that a stream of visitors came to see her and receive council. Pietro pleaded several times for her to return as his wife, but finally he gave up. He eventually became a a Franciscan friar and notable preacher. 

She founded several convents and served as prioress. She died in 1544, after struggles within her Dominican community and severe restrictions placed on her by the convent's prioress. When she died, so many people came to pay respects and see her body that the funeral had to be delayed for three days. 

The connection between Lucy of Narni and Lucy Pevensie, according to Walter Hooper, is that Blessed Lucy could see things that other people couldn't--like her visions--which Lewis incorporated into the story (In Prince Caspian, for example, Lucy is the only one to see Aslan for most of the story): 

After years of study it seems to me that Lewis’s character, Lucy, bears such a very strong resemblance to your saint – the inner light of Faith, the extraordinary perseverance – I don’t think the naming of his finest character Lucy can be other than intentional. I think Blessed Lucy of Narnia has furnished the world with one of the most loved, and spiritually mature characters in English fiction. And if I’m wrong? Well, let me put it this way. My guess is that when we get to Heaven we will be met by C.S.Lewis in the company of Blessed Lucy of Narnia. What will they say to us? Will they reveal whether Lewis based his Lucy on your saint? I think Blessed Lucy of Narnia and C.S.Lewis will laugh. Then Blessed Lucy will say, ‘We will tell you about that later. Other more important things come first. Jack Lewis are here to conduct you into the presence of our Host. After that we can talk about all the things on your mind. But not just yet.’
— Walter Hooper, May, 2009

 

(Lucy is also possibly inspired by Lewis' goddaughter, Lucy.) 

It probably won't surprise you to learn that, when it came time for me to pick a saint as my patron in the Dominican order, that I chose Bl. Lucy.