Rome's religious sites today will find reminders of Lawrence, the deacon,
who died a martyr's death in 258, during the brief persecution of the
Emperor Valerian. Lawrence has a prominent place, beside the Risen Christ,
in Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.
Fra Angelico tells
his story in the magnificent frescoes that were painted for the Chapel
of Pope Nicholas V, now a section of the Vatican Museum. (at right:
Fra Angelico's painting of Lawrence's ordination) Paintings of the
saint's life abound in other sites in the city, where ancient churches
mark his burial place, his martrydom and the spot where he helped the
poor. He is one of the most popular of the early Roman saints. As a
deacon of the Roman church, Lawrence was responsible for dispensing
the church’s resources to the poor.
Certainly, for that
effort alone he was blessed, for Jesus promised to count anything done
to the poor as done to him. "I was hungry and you gave me to eat,
thirsty and you gave me to drink; naked and you clothed me."
The story of Lawrence,
however, is not just a story about him; it illustrates a remarkable
period of growth in the Roman church of the late 3rd century.
the Cry of the Poor
first Christian martyrs
Cecilia, an early saint
Lawrence, the deacon
Sebastian, the soldier saint act
with Compassion front
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