Patron Saint of Librarians


The head of the patron saint of librarians, Saint Lawrence of Rome 1

Let neither popery nor skepticism restrain you from enjoying a good story. For August 10, the feast day of St. Lawrence of Rome, is a very special day for both librarians and storytellers. Throughout history there have always been sadists to accommodate the willing martyr. The methods have varied from beheading and stoning, to being hanged, drawn and quartered. But, the most interesting has to be roasting. This being the grilling of the victim over an open flame.

In 258 A.D., the Roman Emperor Valerian put Pope Sixtus II and six deacons to death. Leaving Deacon Lawrence the head of the church. Today, Deacon Lawrence is better known as St. Lawrence, the patron saint of librarians. He is one of three patron saints of the library profession—the others being Saint Jerome and Saint Catherine of Alexandria—because of his efforts in preserving the documents of the early church.

After the death of Pope Sixtus II, the prefect of Rome came to Lawrence and demanded he turn over the treasures of the church to him. Lawrence replied come back in three days. When the prefect returned, Lawrence had assembled the poor of Rome and told the prefect, these are “the treasures of the church.”2 For this, Lawrence was to be put to death. A gridiron was made. This was not the football field gridiron, but the cooking kind: a flat framework of mesh bars was assembled and placed over glowing coals. This was done so that he could be slowly burnt.

Stripped and bound to the gridiron, Lawrence was slowly roasted little by little. Now this is the part where St. Lawrence became a patron saint not for what he did in his life, but for how he left it. After having roasted one side for a long time he turned to the cook and said with a cheerful smile, “I am done enough, eat if you will.”3 While he roasted to death, he showed such great courage that he is also the patron saint of cooks and comics.

One other thing, if you ever do go to the Vatican, St. Lawrence’s mummified and slightly crisp head is available for viewing in the archives.

  1. Ambrosini, M. L., & Willis, M. (1996). The Secret Archives of the Vatican. Barnes & Noble, Inc. Retrieved from”
  2. Butler, A. (1894). Lives of the Saints: With Reflections for Every Day in the Year. Benziger Brothers. Retrieved from
  3. Butler, A. (1894). Lives of the Saints: With Reflections for Every Day in the Year. Benziger Brothers. Retrieved from

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