Saint Lawrence
Saint Lawrence
Born 225, Osca, Hispania (now modern-day Spain)
Died August 10, 258, Rome
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Major shrine Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome
Feast August 10
Attributes Usually holding a gridiron[1] and wearing a dalmatic[2]
Patronage Rome, Rotterdam, Birgu (Malta), Huesca (Spain), San Lawrenz, Brgy. San Lorenzo, San Pablo City, Philippines (Gozo), Canada, Sri Lanka, comedians, librarians, students, tanners, chefs, roasters[3]

Lawrence of Rome (c. 225 – 258) (Latin: Laurentius, meaning "laurelled") was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258.


The "Acts" of St Lawrence were lost by the time of Saint Augustine, one of whose sermons on Saint Lawrence (Sermo 302, de Sancto Laurent.) admits that his narration was gained from tradition instead of reciting the Acts as was his preferred custom.[4] Such early legends made Lawrence a native of Huesca (Roman Osca) in Hispania Tarraconensis who had received religious instruction from Archdeacon Sixtus in Rome. When Sixtus became Bishop of Rome in 257, Lawrence was ordained a deacon and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church and was made the patron of librarians.

In the persecutions under Valerian in 258 A.D., numerous priests and deacons were put to death, while Christians belonging to the nobility or the Roman Senate were deprived of their goods and exiled. Pope St Sixtus II was one of the first victims of this persecution, being beheaded on August 6. A legend cited by St 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".

Lawrence is said to have been martyred on a gridironas a part of Valerian's persecution. During his torture Lawrence cried out "This side’s done, turn me over and have a bite." ["Assum est, inquit, versa et manduca."] [5] This is the legend often quoted explaining why Lawrence is the Patron Saint of Comedians, butchers and roasters.

Cyprian, the contemporary bishop of Carthage mentions the directive of Valerian that Christian bishops, priests, and deacons should forthwith be punished, and records the martyrdom of Xystus bishop of Rome, in accordance with it on August 6 (Wace).[6] Cyprian was reported to have seen visions of Jesus.



St Lawrence, as represented in the Baroque interior of the church at Lampaul-Guimiliau in Brittany, a region where his veneration is very popular.

According to lore, among the treasure of the Roman church entrusted to Lawrence for safe-keeping was the Holy Chalice, the cup from which Jesus and the Apostles drank at the Last Supper. Lawrence was able to spirit this away to Huesca, in present-day Aragon, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. When Augustine connects Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass:

"For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood"."[7]

According to Christian mythology, the Holy Grail is a relic that was sent by St. Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend whom he knew would travel back to Huesca, remaining in the monastery of Saint John of Pena, core of spiritual strength for the emerging kingdom of Aragon. While the Holy Chalice's exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is generally accepted by Catholics that the Chalice was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate that this chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.

The jewels of St Lawrence

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth.[8] Lawrence worked swiftly 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, at the head of a small delegation, 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." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. This can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.


El martirio de San Lorenzo (Juan de León, MRABASF E-364) 02

"The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence" by J. León (1758) R.A.B.A.S.F., Madrid)

By tradition, Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, martyred at San Lorenzo in Panisperna, and buried in the Via Tiburtina in the Catacomb of Cyriaca by Hippolytus and Justinus, a presbyter. Tradition holds that Lawrence was burned or "grilled" to death, hence his association with the gridiron. One of the early sources for the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence was the description by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in his Peristephanon, Hymn II.

Constantine I is said to have built a small oratory in honour of the martyr, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the 7th century. Pope Damasus I rebuilt or repaired the church, now known as San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the minor basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was built over the place of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Pope Paschal II in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.


Saint Lawrence stone

The stone on which Saint Lawrence's body was laid after death, in San Lorenzo fuori le mura

St Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Devotion to him was widespread by the 4th century. As his martyrdom occurred very early in Church history, many other Christians honor him as well. Since the Perseid Meteor Shower typically occurs every year in mid-August, on or near Saint Lawrence's feast day, some refer to the shower as the "Tears of Saint Lawrence."

San lorenzo's grill

The shrine in Rome containing the gridiron said to have been used to grill Saint Lawrence to death

St 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 Panisperna, traditionally identified as the place of his execution. He is invoked by librarians, cooks, and tanners as their patron. His celebration on 10 August has the rank of feast throughout the entire Catholic world.[9] On this day, the reliquary containing his burnt head is displayed in the Vatican for veneration.


The Escorial Palace, situated at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama, was built by King Philip II of Spain to commemorate the victory of Spanish forces over those of King Henry II of France at the Battle of St Quentin, which took place on the feast of St Lawrence on 10 August 1557. To honor the martyr, the entire floor plan of this imposing edifice was laid out in the form of a gridiron, the means by which St Lawrence was martyred.

French explorer Jacques Cartier gave the name of Saint Lawrence to the widest river in the world. At the mouth of this river is the large Gulf of Saint Lawrence, surrounded by all Canadian Maritime provinces. Closer to the source of this river are the Laurentian mountains (north of the city of Montreal), the major Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent (borough), as well as the famed Saint Lawrence boulevard that spans the full 11.25km width of the island of Montreal.

St Lawrence is the patron saint of the monks of Ampleforth College. St Lawrence is also venerated by Anglo-Catholics: a major church in Sydney, Australia, situated in the former civil (land division) parish of St Lawrence is called "Christ Church St. Laurence". The Brotherhood of St Laurence also bears his name.


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

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 Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


  1. The means of his martyrdom
  2. Symbol of his status as a deacon
  3. Owing to the method of his martyrdom, on a gridiron.
  4. Saint Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum, 1.41
  5. Saint Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum, 1.41.207
  6. Cyprian, Epistles 80.1: ad Successum
  7. Saint Augustine, Sermon on St. Lawrence
  8. Saint Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum, 2.28
  9. From the oldest Christian calendars, such as 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 AD, onwards.

See also

External links

ca:Sant Llorenç (màrtir) cs:Svatý Vavřinec da:Skt. Laurentiuseo:Laŭrenco de Romoko:라우렌시오 id:Laurensiusla:Sanctus Laurentius lt:Šv. Laurynas hu:Szent Lőrincja:ローマのラウレンティウス no:Laurentius av Roma nrm:Louothainspt:Lourenço de Huesca ro:Laurenţiu de Roma ru:Святой Лаврентий sc:Larentu sk:Svätý Vavrinec fi:Pyhä Laurentius sv:Sankt Lars uk:Святий Лаврентій vec:San Lorenso