Feast Day : August 10
Patronage: cooks; cutlers; glaziers; against lumbago; the poor; Sri Lanka
Lawrence was one of seven deacons of the Church in Rome under Pope Sixtus II (r. 257–258). He was martyred following the execution of Sixtus II. Little else is known about Lawrence, but tradition has built up a story around him. In 257 Emperor Valerian issued an edict against Christians, forbidding them to assemble and requiring them to participate in pagan rites. In August 258, Valerian ordered all bishops, priests and deacons killed. On August 6, Sixtus II defied the order and assembled his followers in the Catacomb of Prætextatus (on the Appian Way across from the Catacomb of St. Callistus). He and several church officials were beheaded. According to lore, Lawrence was told by Sixtus that he would follow in martyrdom in three days’ time. Lawrence gladly awaited his fate. He gave away all his money to the poor. The prefect of Rome heard about this and ordered Lawrence to produce the Church’s wealth. Lawrence said he would in three days’ time. He gathered up the sick, beggars, the lame and the poor— all the cast-offs of society—and summoned the prefect. The prefect was not amused at the sight of this sorry lot and demanded to see the treasures. Lawrence is said to have replied, “What are you displeased at? These are the Church treasures!” The enraged prefect ordered Lawrence to be executed by slow death over a gridiron. He was stripped and tied to an iron bed over a slow fire. His flesh roasted little by little and gave off a sweet smell. He was surrounded by a beautiful light. After a long time, he said to the judge, “Let my body be turned; one side is broiled enough.” When his body was turned, he said, “It is cooked enough; you may eat.” Lawrence then prayed for the conversion of Rome, and expired. Noblemen gave him an honorable burial in the cemetery of Cyriaca on the Via Tiburtina. The martyrdom of Lawrence was cited by SS. Augustine, Maximus and Jerome, and by the poet Prudentius, who said his death marked the end of idolatry in Rome. Lawrence became one of the most venerated of the Roman martyrs, and miracles were ascribed to his intercession. At the spot where Lawrence was buried, Emperor Constantine the Great (Blessed) built the first chapel of what became St. Lawrence-Outsidethe- Walls Church, the fifth patriarchal basilica of Rome. For many years, a small quantity of Lawrence’s blood, kept in a reliquary, would liquefy for eight days every August.