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St. Lawrence

Lawrence was a deacon of the Roman Church during the reign of Pope Sixtus II. In August 258, the Emperor Valerian commanded that all priests, bishops, and deacons should be put to death. On August 6, Pope Sixtus II was captured in the catacombs and put to death. The deacons Agapitus and Felicissimus were also executed that day. Lawrence was the last of Rome’s seven deacons to be executed. He died for the Faith on August 10. Writing a little over a century after the martyr’s death, St. Ambrose records that when Lawrence was asked to show the authorities the Church’s treasures, he pointed to the poor and said that these were the Church’s treasures; he had sold the Church’s holy vessels to give relief to the poor. Ambrose also reports that Lawrence was roasted to death on a gridiron, joking with the executioners that “this side is done now”. Modern scholars believe that the holy martyr was executed in some other way and that this story developed during the oral retelling of Lawrence’s heroic death. Lawrence is one of the most venerated of the Church’s early martyrs. Constantine erected an oratory over his grave and a large church was later built over it. Sixtus III (432-440) erected a large basilica to the side of this church.

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