Saint Lawrence or Laurence (Latin: Laurentius, lit. "laurelled"; 31 December AD 225[1] – 10 August 258) 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 before Valerian, detail from a fresco by Bl. Fra Angelico, c. 1447–50, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Born31 December AD 225[1]
Huesca[2] or less likely Valencia, Hispania (modern-day Spain)
Died10 August AD 258 (aged 32)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodoxy
Anglican Communion
Major shrineBasilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome
Feast10 August
AttributesUsually holding a gridiron and wearing a dalmatic
Patronage1) People: those who work with open fires (cooks, bakers, brewers, textile cleaners, tanners) or those to whom fire means harm (librarians, archivists, miners, poor people)
2) Localities: Rome and Grosseto (Italy), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Huesca (Spain), San Lawrenz, Gozo, and Birgu (Malta), Barangay San Lorenzo, San Pablo, Laguna, Balagtas, Bulacan, Balangiga, Eastern Samar, and Mexico, Pampanga (Philippines), Canada, Colombo City (Sri Lanka)

Life edit

Lawrence is thought to have been born on 31 December AD 225,[1] in Huesca (or less probably, in Valencia), the town from which his parents came in the later region of Aragon that was then part of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis.[2] The martyrs Orentius (Modern Spanish: San Orencio) and Patientia (Modern Spanish: Santa Paciencia) are traditionally held to have been his parents.[3][4]

Lawrence encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, a famous teacher born in Greece, in Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza), and they travelled together from Spain to Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained the young Lawrence who was only 32, as a deacon, and later appointed him as "archdeacon of Rome", the first among the seven deacons who served in the cathedral church. This was a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the Church and the distribution of alms to the indigent.[5]

St. Lawrence Distributing the Treasures of the Church by Bernardo Strozzi

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, noted that at the time the norm was that Christians who were denounced were executed and all 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 August 6, 258, at the cemetery of St. Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and was executed immediately.[6]

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church, and St. Ambrose wrote that Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth.[7] He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the indigent as possible to prevent it from being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect. When ordered to deliver the treasures of the Church, he presented the city's indigent, crippled, blind, and suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church: "Here are the treasures of the church. You see, the church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor!"[8][9]

Martyrdom edit

The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence by Rubens (1614)

As a deacon in Rome, Lawrence was responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.[8] Ambrose of Milan related 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.[10] "Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church's crown."[5] 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. After the martyr had suffered pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he cheerfully declared: "I'm well done on this side. Turn me over!"[8][11] From this, St. Lawrence derives his patronage of cooks, chefs, and comedians.

Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda and imprisoned in San Lorenzo in Fonte, where he baptized fellow prisoners. He was martyred in San Lorenzo in Panisperna and was buried in San Lorenzo fuori le Mura. The Almanac of Filocalus for 354 states that he was buried in the Catacomb of Cyriaca on the Via Tiburtina[10] by Hippolytus and Justin the Confessor, a presbyter. One of the early sources for his martyrdom was the description of Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in his Peristephanon, Hymn 2.

San Giacomo dall'Orio (Venice) - Martyrdom of San Lorenzo- by Palma il giovane

Despite the Church being in possession of the actual gridiron, historian Patrick J. Healy opines that the traditional account of how Lawrence was martyred is "not worthy of credence,"[12][page needed] as the slow, lingering death cannot be reconciled "with the express command contained in the edict regarding bishops, priests, and deacons (animadvertantur) which ordinarily meant decapitation."[12][page needed] A theory of how the tradition arose is proposed that as the result of a mistake in transcription, the omission of the letter "p" – "by which the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est ["he suffered," that is, was martyred] – was made to read assus est [he was roasted]."[12][page needed] The Liber Pontificalis, which is held to draw from sources independent of the existing traditions and Acta regarding Lawrence, uses passus est concerning him, the same term it uses for Pope Sixtus II, who was martyred by decapitation during the same persecution 4 days earlier.[12][page needed]

Emperor Constantine I is held to have erected a small oratory in honour of Lawrence, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the seventh century. Pope Damasus I rebuilt or repaired the church, now the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was erected over the site of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Pope Paschal II in the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina.[citation needed]

Associated Roman churches edit

St. Lawrence in stained glass window by Franz Mayer & Co. He is holding a palm branch, a symbol of martyrdom, and a griddle, the instrument of his death.

The Roman Catholic Church erected six churches on the sites in Rome traditionally associated with his martyrdom:

Also in Rome are three other significant churches that are dedicated to Saint Lawrence but not associated with his life:

Miracles edit

The life and miracles of Lawrence were collected in The Acts of St Lawrence but those writings have been lost. The earliest existing documentation of miracles associated with him is in the writings of Gregory of Tours (538–594), who mentions the following:

A priest named Fr. Sanctulus was rebuilding a church of St. Lawrence, which had been attacked and burnt, and hired many workmen to accomplish the job. At one point during the construction, he found himself with nothing to feed them. He prayed to St. Lawrence for help, and looking in his basket he found a fresh, white loaf of bread. It seemed to him too small to feed the workmen, but in faith he began to serve it to the men. While he broke the bread, it so multiplied that his workmen fed from it for ten days.[5][better source needed]

The mediaeval Church of St Mary Assumed (Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta) in the small commune of Amaseno, Lazio, Italy houses the famous reliquary of the ampulla containing relics of Lawrence, namely a quantum of his blood, a fragment of his flesh, some fat and ashes. Tradition holds that annually, on the Feast of St. Lawrence, and sometimes on other occasions, the blood in the ampulla miraculously liquefies during the Feast and re-coagulates by the following day.[14][better source needed]

Veneration edit

The stone on which St Lawrence's body was laid after death, 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.[15]

Roman Catholic Church edit

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.[citation needed]

Lawrence is especially honoured in the city of Rome, of which he is considered the third patron after St. Peter and St. Paul.[16] 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.[11] The area proximate to the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura is named the "Quartiere San Lorenzo".[citation needed]

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".[5]

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 British (and other) Roman Catholics, located in North Yorkshire.

Anglican Communion edit

Within Anglicanism Lawrence's name is traditionally spelled Laurence or Lawrence. His feast is on 10 August which is in the calendar of the Book of Common Prayer, the volume of prayers which, in its 1662 format, was the founding liturgical document of a majority of Anglican provinces. In the Book of Common Prayer the feast is titled "S Laurence, Archdeacon of Rome and Martyr". His feast on 10 August has been carried into the contemporary calendars of most Anglican provinces,[17] Laurence is remembered in the Church of England[18] with a Lesser Festival under the title "Laurence, deacon, martyr, 258" on 10 August.[19]

Anglo-Catholics venerate Lawrence, who is the patron of many Anglican parish churches, including 228 in England.[20][21] A major church in Sydney, Australia, in the former civil parish of St Laurence, is known as "Christ Church St Laurence". The Anglican charitable society, Brotherhood of St Laurence also bears his name.[citation needed]

Legacy edit

According to Francesco Moraglia the role of deacon is distinguished by service of the poor. He is destined both to the service of the table (corporal works of mercy) and to the service of the word (spiritual works of mercy). "The beauty, power and the heroism of [d]eacons such as Lawrence help to discover and come to a deeper meaning of the special nature of the diaconal ministry."[6]

El Escorial, near Madrid, laid out in a pattern resembling a gridiron

Many churches, schools, parishes, towns, and geographic features throughout the world are named for Lawrence of Rome. Depending on locality they are named St. Lawrence, St. Laurence, San Lorenzo, St. Laurent, St. Lorenz or similarly in other languages. San Lorenzo del Escorial, the monastery built by King Philip II of Spain, commemorates his victory at the Battle of St. Quentin (1557) on the Feast of St. Lawrence.[22] The monastery and the attached palace, college, and library are laid out in a pattern that resembles the gridiron of Lawrence's martyrdom. The gridiron of Lawrence is also thought the basis of the design of the Certosa di San Lorenzo di Padula, which is a monastery in Padula, Salerno, Italy.

Canada's patron saint is St. Lawrence. On his second voyage, French explorer Jacques Cartier, arriving in the river estuary of the North American Great Lakes on the Feast of St. Lawrence in 1535, named it the Gulf of St. Lawrence.[23] The river emptying into the gulf was named the St. Lawrence River. Many names in what are now Québec and the Maritime Provinces of Canada are references to this important seaway, e. g., the Laurentian mountains north of the city of Montreal, Saint-Laurent (borough), Saint Lawrence Boulevard which spans the width of the Island of Montreal, and St. Lawrence County, New York, United States near Lake Ontario. In the province of Ontario, St. Lawrence is a prominent, historic neighbourhood in old centre of Toronto (formerly named York), now most known for the expansive St. Lawrence Market. The Laurentian Mountains gave rise to the name for the Laurential Plateau, or the Canadian Shield. In Switzerland, Saint Lawrence is represented on the coat of arms of the city of Bülach with a gridiron.

The rescue operation for the miners trapped in the 2010 Copiapó mining accident in Chile was named Operacíon San Lorenzo after Lawrence, patron saint of miners.[24]

Bernalillo, New Mexico celebrates three days of devotions to the Saint, in honor a devotional promise made by Spanish settlers during the 1692 Pueblo Revolt. Among the festivities are a set of dances performed by matachines. An image of the saint is kept in the house of a local family throughout the year, and a vigil and feast are held from 9–11 August. It is one of the oldest dancing processions in the New World.[25]

Patronage edit


Gallery edit

In popular culture edit

In Fargo, season 1, episode 3, Lorne Malvo notes the stained glass window of St Lawrence in Stavros' office, in response to which Stavros narrates his martyrdom, in "A Muddy Road".

In a scene in the 1992 film Lorenzo's Oil, Augusto, Michaela, and Lorenzo tell a story about St Lawrence and refer to his Feast Day as "The Night of The Shooting Stars".[28]

In music edit

Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Motet de Saint Laurent, H.321, for one voice, two treble instruments and contino, 1677-78

See also edit

Several other saints were also named "Lawrence" (or the corresponding local variant), so one might also occasionally encounter something named after one of them. More information on these topics can currently be accessed through disambiguation articles like:

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Citing St. Donato as the original source. Janice Bennett. St. Laurence and the Holy Grail: The Story of the Holy Chalice of Valencia. Littleton, Colorado: Libri de Hispania, 2002, pg. 61.
  2. ^ a b Citing Francisco Diago and St. Donato as sources. Janice Bennett. St. Laurence and the Holy Grail: The Story of the Holy Chalice of Valencia. Littleton, Colorado: Libri de Hispania, 2002. Pages 15 and 62.
  3. ^ Janice Bennett. St. Laurence and the Holy Grail: The Story of the Holy Chalice of Valencia. Littleton, Colorado: Libri de Hispania, 2002. Page 61.
  4. ^ Sts. Orentius and Patientia Catholic Online
  5. ^ a b c d ""St. Lawrence, Deacon Martyr," said to have been martyred by being put on a gridiron. St. Lawrence Orthodox Christian Church" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Moraglia, Fr. Francesco, "St. Lawrence, Proto-Deacon of the Roman Church", Vatican".
  7. ^ Saint Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum, 2.28
  8. ^ a b c Fr. Paolo O. Pirlo, SHMI (1997). "St. Lawrence". My First Book of Saints. Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate – Quality Catholic Publications. pp. 176–178. ISBN 971-91595-4-5.
  9. ^ Bosworth, The Rev'd Dr Robert W. (1 August 2022). A Year with the 23rd Psalm. Page Publishing. ISBN 978-1-64628-636-2.
  10. ^ a b "Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Lawrence." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 February 2013".
  11. ^ a b Foley, OFM, Leonard, "St. Lawrence", Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons, and Feast (Revised by Pat McCloskey, OFM), Franciscan Media ISBN 978-0-86716-887-7
  12. ^ a b c d Rev. Patrick Joseph Healy (1905). The Valerian persecution: a study of the relations between church and state in the third century A.D. Boston, Ma: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co.
  13. ^ Parrocchia Santa Maria Assunta in Amaseno, Lazio, Italy; "I Luoghi di San Lorenzo a Roma"; [2]; accessed 13 March 2017.
  14. ^ Parrocchia Santa Maria Assunta in Amaseno, Lazio, Italy;
  15. ^ Owens, B. (2003). "The safeguarding of memory: The divine function of the librarian and archivist" . Library & Archival Security, 18(1), 9–41
  16. ^ Parrocchia Santa Maria Assunta, Amaseno, "I Luoghi di San Lorenzo a Roma", [3], accessed 13 March 2017.
  17. ^ See, for example, "An Anglican Prayer Book" (1989), the Province of Southern Africa, published by Collins Liturgical, ISBN 0 00 599180 3, Calendar, page 24.
  18. ^ See "Common Worship" (2000) core edition, published by Church House Publishing, ISBN 0 7151 2000 X, Calendar, page 12.
  19. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  20. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, published by Oxford University Press; ISBN 0 19 283069 4 (paperback), cites 228 churches.
  21. ^ The Church of England official index (ACNY) cites 224 spelt "Lawrence" and "Laurence".
  22. ^ Fodor's Review (2008). "Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial".
  23. ^ Johnson, William Henry (20 May 2007). French Pathfinders in North America. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  24. ^ Oppman, Patrick. "Faith plays key role for trapped Chilean miners, families",, 9 September 2010.
  25. ^ Joseph Moreno, "The Tradition Continues: Los Matachines Dance of Bernalillo, New Mexico", 2008
  26. ^ "Saint Lawrence of Rome". CatholicSaints.Info. 26 October 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Domkyrkans särskilda skyddshelgon".
  28. ^ "QuoDB | the movie quotes database".

External links edit