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Saint Lawrence

"The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor."

Saint Lawrence was one fo the seven deacons under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred during the Valerian persecutions.

Born on December 31st, 225, Saint Lawrence grew up in the town of Valencia (then part of the Roman province Hispania Tarraconensis). His parents Saint Orentius and Saint Patientia would be Christian martyrs themselves later in life. While living in Caesaragusta (Zaragoza) he became close friends with the man who would eventually become Saint Pope Sixtus II. Together the two left for Rome where Saint Sixtus became Pope in 257. One of his first acts as Pope was to appoint Saint Laurence, then still a young man, as one of the seven deacons serving in the Cathedral Church. This position became known as archdeacon of Rome and it carried great trust to ensure the care of the treasury of the Church and it's distribution to the poor and needy.

In August 258, the Emperor Valerian began his nightmarish persecutions of the Church. His edict in August declared that all Bishops, Priests and Deacons should be arrested and put to death. When Saint Pope Sixtus II was arrested and martyred, Valerian ordered Saint Lawrence to turn over the wealth and riches that remained with the Church. He asked Valerian for three days to gather the wealth and present it before the Imperial court. Instead of gathering this wealth he desperately and swiftly worked for three days to give away as much as possible to the poor of the city.

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

On the third day he presented himself to the prefect of Rome. When asked to present the treasures, he instead presented the crippled, the blind and the suffering declaring them to be the true treasures of the Church. He declared to the prefect

"The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor."

Saint Ambrose of Milan wrote that Saint Lawrence said aloud:

"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."

The prefect had a gridiron prepared with fiery coals beneath it and ordered Saint Lawrence be placed on it. After suffering an immense amount of pain, Saint Lawrence shouted:

"I'm well done on this side. Turn me over!"

Saint Lawrence is considered the third Patron Saint of Rome after Saint Peter and Saint Paul. As the Perseid Meteor Shower typically occurs in mid-August it has become known as the "Tears of Saint Lawrence". His feast day on August 10th is consistent with one of the oldest Christian calendars - the Almanac of Philocalus (354 AD). For his cheerfulness in the face of his martyrdom Saint Lawrence is the patron saint of comedians, cooks, chefs, Rome, archivists, librarians and tanners.

There are six churches erected on the sites in Rome traditionally associated with Saint Lawrence and his martyrdom:

  • Minor basilica of Saint Lawrence in Damaso - where he performed duties as deacon

  • Minor Basilica of Saint Mary in Domnica alla Navicella - where he distributed alms

  • Annexed Church of Saint Lawrence in Miranda - site of his sentencing by the Prefect of Rome

  • Annexed Church of Saint Lawrence in Fonte - site of his imprisonment and the fountain in which he baptized his fellow prisoners

  • Church of Saint Lawrence in Panisperna - site of his martyrdom

  • Papal Minor Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the walls - site of his burial and sepulchre

Papal Minor Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls

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