San Lucio dairyman from Cavargna (Como)

Author: Giancarlo Gonizzi

Saint Lucio is a popular saint. His cult arose spontaneously on the mountains at the border of the Province of Como with Canton Ticino, around the locality of Cavargna, making him the undisputed saint protector of herdsmen and dairymen. His name, modified over time, already appears in medieval times as Luguzzone, Luzzone, Uguzzone, Uguzzo, Uguccione and other similar ones.

We do not know for certain when Luguzzone lived, but an analysis of the sources, especially those regarding the mountain shrine dedicated to him, dates his martyrdom to the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries.

Even though he had not been canonized, dairymen and mountaineers travelling for work rapidly spread the devotion to the Saint of Cavargna through Lombardy and Canton Ticino.

Tradition says he was a shepherd who looked after livestock. He gave to the poor the cheese he received from his master as pay, and this cheese would multiply miraculously. His master, driven by envy and by anger about the missed sales, murdered Lucio near a pond located on the ridge that separates Val Cavargna and Val Colla, on the border between the province of Como and Switzerland. The waters of that Alpine pool become red on his feast day, July 12, the date of his martyrdom. The faithful would collect these waters and store them at home to cure eye diseases.

The patron of mountaineers, San Lucio later became also the protector of cheese makers. This latter role inspired most of the Saint’s iconography, with Lucio depicted in shepherd’s clothes, in the act of cutting a wheel of cheese with a knife, and often including a palm branch, the symbol of martyrdom.

Starting in the 13th century, the cult of the Saint spread from Cavargna, the village closest to the location of his martyrdom, and the site of a shrine dedicated to him, to the rest of northern Italy. Later, when he became patron saint of cheese makers and of their Corporations and Guilds, his worship also reached cities such as Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Lodi Codogno, Piacenza and Parma, partly because people from Val Cavargna spread the cult of the Saint to about fifty locations in northern Italy and the Ticino area in their travels as itinerant “magnani” (coppersmiths).

The feast of San Lucio is celebrated every year on July 12 in the mountain shrine named after him.