This page concerns the Christian martyr.
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.
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 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.
According to legend, he was roasted to death on a grill, or gridiron, near the field of Verano in Rome, punctuated the saint's quip shortly before his death: "The meat is almost ready. Turn and eat." 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. 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 and tanners as their patron. His celebration on August 10 has the rank of feast throughout the Catholic world.
See also: Saint Lawrence River, St. Lawrence Market, List of saints, Lorcan Ua Tuathail