On August 10th we celebrate Saint Lawrence. Discover his history in this new article.
Saint Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the city of Rome under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred in the persecution of the Christians that the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered in 258.
Lawrence is thought to have been born on December 31, AD 225 in Valencia. The martyrs San Orencio and Santa Paciencia are traditionally held to have been his parents. Lawrence encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin and one of the most famous and highly esteemed teachers in Zaragoza and left Spain for Rome.
When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained Lawrence as a deacon.
St Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Pope Sixtus II was captured on 6 August 258, at the cemetery of St Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed forthwith.
After the death of Sixtus, on 10 August, Lawrence, the last of the seven deacons, and therefore, the ranking Church official, suffered a martyr’s death.
As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.
Ambrose of Milan relates that when the treasures of the Church were demanded of Lawrence by the prefect of Rome, he brought forward the poor, to whom he had distributed the treasure as alms. The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it, and had Lawrence placed on it, hence Lawrence’s association with the gridiron.
Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, imprisoned in and baptized fellow prisoners at San Lorenzo in Fonte, martyred at San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and was buried in San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.
Due to his conspiring to hide and protect the written documents of the Church, Lawrence is known as the patron saint of archivists and librarians.
Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Legendary details of his death were known to Damasus, Prudentius, Ambrose, and Augustine. Devotion to him was widespread by the fourth century. His liturgical celebration on 10 August has the rank of feast in the General Roman Calendar, consistent with the oldest of Christian calendars, e. g. the Almanac of Philocalus for the year 354, the inventory of which contains the principal feasts of the Roman martyrs of the middle of the fourth century. He remains one of the saints enumerated in the “Roman Canon” of the Holy Mass as celebrated in the Latin Church.
Lawrence is especially honoured in the city of Rome, of which he is considered the third patron after St. Peter and St. Paul. The church built over his tomb, the Papal Minor Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, became one of the seven principal churches of Rome and a favourite place of Roman pilgrimages. The area proximate to the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura is named the “Quartiere San Lorenzo”.
Because the Perseid Meteor Shower typically occurs annually in mid-August on or proximate to his feast day, some refer to the shower as the “Tears of St Lawrence”.
The shrine containing the gridiron that was used to roast St Lawrence to death according to tradition is in the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome.
His intercession to God is invoked by librarians, archivists, comedians, cooks and tanners as their patron. He is the patron saint of Ampleforth Abbey, whose Benedictine monks founded one of the world’s leading public schools for Catholics, located in North Yorkshire (North East England).
On his feast the reliquary containing his burnt head is displayed in the Vatican for veneration.