St. Lawrence – Archdeacon and Servant of Christ

St. Lawrence, archdeacon of Rome, distributing alms to the poor; painted by  Fra Angelico, circa 1447.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence, a deacon and third century martyr. St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of Rome who served as the Pope’s ministers during Holy Mass and as his administrators to the people of Rome. His execution occurred a few days after the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus II and four deacons (Januarius, Vincent, Magnus, and Stephen). At that time, all the deacons of Rome were executed.

The role of deacon is distinguished by service to the poor – both in mind and body. A deacon serves at “table” which results in his participating in the corporal works of mercy; and he performs service to “the Word,”  which are the spiritual works of mercy. These actions are given witness through various works: teaching the Faith, baptizing adults and infants, reading the Holy Gospel during Mass, distributing alms, admonishing sinners, feeding  and clothing those in need, praying for the living and the dead, serving and visiting the sick, administrating parish and diocesan needs, etc. The deacon is the first Order within the Sacrament of Holy Orders (the other two Orders being the priest and bishop).

St. Lawrence depicted in a Roman Catholic Breviary (Book of Hours). circa 1300’s. He is holding a gridiron, the instrument of his torture and death (he was placed on the gridiron and roasted to death by his Roman executioners).


According to Church tradition, this is the stone on which St Lawrence’s body was laid after his death. It is located in the church of San Lorenzo fuori le mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls) located in Rome. My wife and I were privileged to visit this church in 2007.

These frescoes, and illuminated miniatures are catechesis as well as beautiful art. Fra Angelico’s paintings portray St. Lawrence in an exquisite salmon rose colored dalmatic (the garment which signifies the deacon’s service and loyalty to his bishop). In liturgical use the color salmon rose represents the virtue of joy. This image was painted (fresco) between 1447 – 1449 and is approximately 9 by 7 feet.

St. Lawrence, deacon of Rome, distributing alms to the poor; painted by  Fra Angelico, circa 1447.

Praise be the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His faith-filled martyrs.


Copyright © 2011-2012 Deacon Paul O. Iacono – All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint must be obtained from the author in writing. Students, and those interested, may quote small sections of the article as long as the proper credit and notation is given. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “St. Lawrence – Archdeacon and Servant of Christ

  1. Beautiful paintings. Beautiful post. I find myself more and more drawn to the stories of the saints. Who they are, what they did, and how they lived don’t seem to be taught or spoken of as much anymore. Thank you for reminding us all of St. Lawrence.


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