Roman deacon and martyr; d. Rome, probably 258. Lawrence and four clerics were put to death, probably by the sword, during the persecution of Valerian (258), four days after the martyrdom of Pope sixtus ii and his four deacons. The legendary details of his passion, such as the parting words of Sixtus predicting Lawrence's martyrdom four days later and Lawrence's last joke to the judge while being roasted on the gridiron— Assam est; versa, et manduca! (it is well done; turn it over and eat it)— were known to damasus, ambrose, prudentius, and augustine. These details may have come into the legend as a result of the cult of the Phrygian martyrs described by the historians socrates and sozomen. The feast of St. Lawrence is noted in martyrologies as early as the beginning of the fourth century; the church built over his tomb became one of the seven principal churches of Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages. His cult spread rapidly through Christendom. His intercession is credited with a decisive victory over the Magyars on the Lechfeld in 955 and the victory of St. Quentin in 1557.
Feast: Aug. 10.
Bibliography: a. benvenuti papi, Il Diacono Lorenzo tra storia e leggenda, ed. c. battigelli baldasseroni (Florence 1998). n. wireker, The Passion of St. Lawrence, ed. and tr. j. m. ziolkowski (Leiden 1994). d. w. russell, La Vie de Saint Laurent: An Anglo-Norman Poem of the Twelfth Century (London 1976). r. paffen, Der Streit um das Laurentiushaupt (Mönschengladbach 1970). v. l. kennedy, The Saints of the Canon of the Mass (Vatican City 1938). p. franchi de' cavalieri, "S. Lorenzo e il supplicio della graticola," Römische Quartalschrift für Christliche Altertumskunde und für Kirchengeschichte (Freiburg 1887–) 14 (1900) 159–176. Acta Sanctorum Aug. 2:485–532.