Lawrence was born in Osca (Huesca), a Spanish city, in the first half of the 3rd century. He came to Rome, the centre of Christianity. He was noted for his piety, his charity in favour of the poor people and for his behaviour and integrity.
On account of his endowments, Pope Sixtus II named him Deacon of the Church. He had to superintend the administration of goods, accept donations, look after them and provide for the needy, orphans and widows.
On account of these duties, Lawrence was one of the most well-known personages of the early Roman Christianity, and one of the most venerated martyrs, so much so, that his memory was preserved by many churches and chapels built in his honour.
History tells us that Lawrence was captured by the soldiers of the Emperor Valerian, on the 6th of August, 258 in the catacombs of St. Callixtus together with Pope Sixtus II and other deacons. While the Pontiff with the other deacons suffered martyrdom, Lawrence was set apart, so as to extort from him the treasures of the Church. It is related that when the emperor Valerian commanded him to hand over the treasures of the Church, Lawrence brought to him the poor and the sick people and said: “Here are the treasures of the Church”.
Afterwards Lawrence was taken into custody by the Centurion Hippolytus who confined him in the dungeon of his palace located on Urbana Street where the Church of S. Lorenzo in Fonte is located.
In this dark damp narrow place there was a prisoner named Lucillus who was blind. Lawrence comforted his fellow prisoner, encouraged him, catechized him in the doctrine of Christ and used a spring of water gushing out from the ground to baptize him. After the baptism Lucillus recovered his sight. The centurion Hippolytus often used to visit his prisoners; and having ascertained the prodigious event and more over struck by the serenity and the meekness of the prisoners illuminated by God’s grace he became a Christian, receiving baptism from Lawrence.
Afterwards Hippolytus being recognized as a Christian was tied to the tails of horses and dragged along on stones and brambles until he died. Lawrence was burnt alive on a grill in a place not too far from the site of the prison and his ashes were placed in the Verano graveyard in the Saint Ciriaca catacomb. St. Lawrence’s martyrdom is dated in the Roman martyrology, on the August 10, 258 A.D.
As a reminder of these events three churches were built in Rome which are still in existence. St. Lawrence in Fonte (site of the prison), St Lawrence in Panisperna (the place of the martyrdom) and St. Lawrence in Verano (site of the burial).
Click here to read a poem on the life of St Lawrence
Click here to learn about the powerful intercession of the Holy Souls in Purgatory for their benefactors and ways to help them.