Saint Lawrence

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This page concerns the Christian martyr.


Saint Lawrence
Missing image

Fra Angelico painted this fresco of Saint Lawrence's trial. Note the deacon's robes on the saint.
Deacon and Martyr
Born Spain (?)
Died August 10, 258, in Rome
Venerated in Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, some other Christians
Canonized As with most early saints, there was no official canonization process. Cult is documented since the fourth century.
Major shrine Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome
Feast August 10
Attributes Usually holding a gridiron and wearing a dalmatic
Patronage Rome, Sri Lanka, librarians, tanners
The fire within him enabled him to withstand the external fire.

Pope Leo I on St. Lawrence

Saint Lawrence (Laurentius in Latin) was one of the seven deacons of Rome, where he was martyred in 258. Legend reports that he was a native Spaniard, but received religious instruction from Archdeacon Sixtus in Rome. When Sixtus became Pope in 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor. Some regard him as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church.

In the persecutions under Emperor Valerian I in 258, numerous priests and bishops were put to death, while Christians belonging to the nobility or the senate were deprived of their goods and exiled. Pope St. Sixtus II was one of the first victims of this persecution, being crucified on August 6. A legend cited by (Saint) Ambrose of Milan says that Lawrence met the Pope on his way to his execution, where he is reported to have said, "Where are you going, my dear father, without your son? Where are you hurrying off to, holy priest, without your deacon? Before you never mounted the altar of sacrifice without your servant, and now you wish to do it without me?" The Pope is reported to have prophesied that "after three days you will follow me". Modern scholars tend to dismiss this scene as having been impossible in the situation.

After the Pope's death, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. After this, Lawrence worked to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor."

Missing image
The stone on which Saint Lawrence body was put after his death. San Lorenzo fuori le mura

According to legend, he was roasted to death on a grill, or gridiron, near the field of Verano in Rome (later, the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura was built in the same place), punctuated the saint's quip shortly before his death: "The meat is almost ready. Turn and eat." Many other believe him to have laughed and smiled while he was dying. in his sermons, St. Augustine of Hippo confirms and glorifies Lawrence's martyrdom by roasting. Many modern scholars hold death by decapitation to be more likely. His death occurred on August 10, 258, which since then is celebrated as his feast day.

Despite the various legends that have sprung up about Lawrence, his existence as a historical figure is beyond question, as well as the site and year of his death.


Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Devotion to him was widespread by the fourth century. As his martyrdom occurred very early in Church history, many other Christians honor him as well.

Lawrence is especially honored in the city of Rome, where he is one of the city's patrons. There are several churches in Rome dedicated to him, including San Lorenzo in Panisperma, traditionally identified as the place of his execution. He is invoked by librarians, cooks, and tanners as their patron. His celebration on August 10 has the rank of feast throughout the Catholic world. On this day, the reliquary containing his burnt head is displayed in the Vatican for veneration.

The Divine Office accords this special prayer to him on his feast day (from the translation in Christian Prayer):

Father, you called Saint Lawrence to serve you by love and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom. Help us to be like him in loving you and doing your work. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Som, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

See also

it:San Lorenzo pl:Święty Wawrzyniec


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