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Luca

Vero

Luca is a young priest in training, and was handed to the monastery by his father, who recognised his son’s exceptional talent for reasoning, and believed that this would give him access to an education and also perhaps protection from being branded a ‘changeling’ by their superstitious village neighbours.

Following his parents’ disappearance, Luca continued to train for the priesthood but his innate curiosity and questioning lead him into trouble with the authorities. Taken under guard to see the spiritual commander of Pope Nicholas V, he expects to be held to account for his potentially heretical actions but is instead recruited into a secret order and sent on a mission to verify or deny reports of strange and unaccountable happenings throughout Europe. Luca, the Italian version of Luke, means light, and Vero is the Italian for truth, thus Luca’s name is a metaphor for his role in casting light on superstition and the inexplicable.

Meet

Luca

Characteristics

Luca carries a dagger in his boot. He is slight, has dark hair and hazel eyes.

He is a young man with a body forged by hard work. His life within the monastery made him shy with women, though he feels they are inferior to men anyway. He has a logical, analytical mind that has made him a mathematical genius.

Monastic Life

"The priest saw that I was a bright boy, so my parents sent me to the monastery."

Clever children would sometimes be placed in the care of the monastery so they could learn to read and write. This is the reason that Luca enters training for the priesthood, as well as the clerk, Peter.

Heresy

At the outset of the story, Luca has been accused of heresy. You may have heard this word used in a modern context, possibly in a jocular way.

In the Middle Ages, heresy was an accusation levied against someone for violation of religious belief. Heresy is a concept present in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, though with different nuances of meaning. A heretic does not perceive their own views as heretical.

Changeling

Early in the novel we learn that although Luca’s parents are relatively old when he is born, he is attractive and possesses exceptional abilities. This arouses suspicion amongst the villagers who think he may be a changeling. It is one of the reasons that Luca’s father entrusts him to the monastery.

Changeling is a term used when one child is substituted for another. In the Middle Ages there was a widespread belief that babies were sometimes stolen from their crib and exchanged for a fairy baby, especially if the baby was unusually weak or petulant. Literary reference to changelings can be found in the works of Shakespeare and in Spenser, in Maurice Sendak’s Outside, Over There, and in the film Labyrinth, amongst other examples.