St Lawrence – the patron saint of cooks

What, with the royal wedding in London on Friday, and yesterday’s ceremonies for the beatification of the late Pope, John Paul II, coinciding with Italy’s “primo maggio” day (i.e. labour day), the last few days have been very much about ‘show’, pomp and circumstance on TV.   One cannot live in Italy — let alone in or around Rome — and not have been overwhelmed, this last weekend, by the friendly invasion of hordes of saintly souls who made their pilgrimage to Rome for this very solemn and important event within the Catholic Church.  As Shakespeare said in Twelfth Night, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em!.   Whatever one’s religious inclinations, one cannot ignore what an important figure Pope John Paul II cut for catholics.

But I can’t help feeling that the whole ‘grand show’ over his beatification wouldn’t have been his ‘thing’ at all … if he was cherished by the man in the street, it was because he could speak the language of the man in the street.  A favourite quote/quip was his exhortation, in the course of a public speech, in Roman slang: “Dàmose da fa e volemose bene, semo romani“. (rough translation: “let’s get our act together and love one another, we’re Romans”).  Truly a charismatic man of the cloth.

Another holy man who had a sense of humour was dear St Lawrence, patron saint of cooks. If you look him up on the internet, there are many variations of his sorry tale.  But the point was, he is said to have found a very witty comment even when he was undergoing excruciating torments:

Here is his story (quoted from


In the year 257 new laws were enacted in Rome against the Church. The prefect of Rome learned that deacons were responsible for safeguarding and distributing Church assets, so he sent for Lawrence and demanded that he turn over the treasures of the Church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He went about the city gathering the poor and outcast, the widows and orphans, the sick and the homeless supported by the Christian community. He took them before the pagan prefect and declared: “These are the treasures of the Church.” Lawrence paid for this lesson with his life.

Tradition tells us that Lawrence was roasted to death on a gridiron, and to him are attributed the famous dying words, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”

(The Italians, with their characteristically ironic humor, celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence with barbecues!)

Some might say St. Lawrence should be the Patron Saint of Grilling, but he’s actually the patron saint of cooks in general, and by extension of barbecuers.


The feast day for San Lorenzo is 10th August.  The feast of his martyrdom falls at the time of the Perseid Meteor shower. This spectacular astromonical phenomenon was known in past times as the “burning tears of St Lawrence”.

“La notte di San Lorenzo”, i.e. the night of St Lawrence’s feast day on 10th August, is typically a night when sweethearts will seek somewhere to lie down and gaze at the firmament, seeking out a shower of falling stars to wish them well.

The reason for this post is all about background … background for another post, about a Lorenzo who is a cook, and very much alive and well.

About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
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2 Responses to St Lawrence – the patron saint of cooks

  1. Kathryn Gearheard says:

    Jo, I was in London crushing through the wedding crowds and I thought all of Italy was in the UK. I rarely heard English spoken, a bare bit of French but surround sound Italian. I couldn’t imagine there was anyone left in Italy. Apparently, an Italian team was in a sports match and you had the national holiday weekend too.

  2. josephine says:

    It must have been amazing!!! the atmosphere alone!!

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