1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lawrence, St
LAWRENCE (Laurentius, Lorenzo), ST, Christian martyr, whose name appears in the canon of the mass, and whose festival is on the 10th of August. The basilica reared over his tomb at Rome is still visited by pilgrims. His legend is very popular. Deacon of the pope (St) Sixtus (Xystus) II., he was called upon by the judge to bring forth the treasures of the church which had been committed to his keeping. He thereupon produced the church's poor people. Seeing his bishop, Sixtus, being led to punishment, he cried: “Father! whither goest thou without thy son? Holy priest! whither goest thou without thy deacon?” Sixtus prophesied that Lawrence would follow him in three days. The prophecy was fulfilled, and Lawrence was sentenced to be burnt alive on a gridiron. In the midst of his torments he addressed the judge ironically with the words: Assum est, versa et manduca (“I am roasted enough on this side; turn me round, and eat”). All these details of the well-known legend are already related by St Ambrose (De Offic. i. 41, ii. 28). The punishment of the gridiron and the speech of the martyr are probably a reminiscence of the Phrygian martyrs, as related by Socrates (iii. 15) and Sozomen (v. 11). But the fact of the martyrdom is unquestionable. The date is usually put at the persecution of Valerian in 258.
The cult of St Lawrence has spread throughout Christendom, and there are numerous churches dedicated to him, especially in England, where 228 have been counted. The Escurial was built in honour of St Lawrence by Philip II. of Spain, in memory of the battle of St Quentin, which was won in 1557 on the day of the martyr's festival. The meteorites which appear annually on or about the 10th of August are popularly known as “the tears of St Lawrence.”
S. Lorenzo e il supplicio della graticola (Rome, 1900); Analecta Bollandiana, xix. 452 and 453; Fr. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England's Patron Saints, i. 508-515, iii. 18,389-390 (1899).