San Lorenzo in Panisperna
St. Lawrence, though considered a minor saint by many today, was once one of the most beloved saints both in Rome and throughout Latin Christendom, and rightly so. A deacon of the Roman Church in the mid-third century, he found himself faced with the task of administering the Church after the arrest of Pope Sixtus II and four of his fellow deacons in the Catacombs of Callixtus on 6 August 258. Meeting the pope while he was being led away to prison and execution, Lawrence begged to be able to accompany him. The pope turned this request down, giving the deacon charge of the temporal goods of the church, while telling him that the deacon would follow his bishop in four days time. Lawrence then went forth and gave away the material goods of the church to the poor in the city. Soon he in turn was arrested and brought before the magistrates, and when the treasures of the Church were demanded of him he presented to the authorities the poor, saying that these were the true treasures of the Church. The Romans, enraged by this seeming insolence, cast the deacon into a dark prison cell near the site of today’s church. There, he converted the jailer and his family. With the authorities only further angered by his success, they condemned him to be burnt alive over a gridiron set up on the site of today’s station. So it was that on 10 August 258, that St. Lawrence was burnt alive for his steadfast faith in Christ. As one final jab at his executioners, he is said to have remarked to them as his torments neared their end, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.” And so he passed from the sufferings of this world to the glory of the next.
Today, the spot of his martyrdom is marked by this small church. A record of a church on this site, then called St. Lawrence in Formonso, exists from the late eighth century, and it seems that this church was built in the early seventh century. The current church was built to replace this in the period 1565-1574, being consecrated three years later. A restoration in 1757 gave the church the appearance it has today.