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FEAST - A Saint for the Day (August 10): St. Lawrence of Rome


John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>


medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>


Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:22:09 +0000





text/plain (213 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Lawrence (d. 258?) is a Roman martyr of the Via Tiburtina.  He is entered under this day in the _Depositio martyrum_ of the Chronographer of 354 and is generally held to have been a cleric (usually, a deacon) and a victim of the same persecution in which pope St. Sixtus II met his end (usually thought to be that of Valerian but in Lawrence's Passio presented as that of Decius).  Genuine acta concerning him, if they ever existed, were already unavailable to Sts. Augustine of Hippo and Maximus of Turin.

Whereas Lawrence's legendary acta found their fullest expression in the _Passio sancti Polychronii_ (BHL 4753; earliest version: late fifth-century?), their basic elements were known to St. Ambrose of Milan and to Prudentius as well to the aforementioned Augustine and Maximus.  The familiar part about being tortured on a grill is inconsistent with other information about executions during the Valerianic persecution and for that reason is generally viewed by students of the period as invention; much of the remainder (e.g. the prophetic encounter with Sixtus just before his martyrdom and the sale of the church's treasure and the distribution of the proceeds to the poor) has seemed to some to be at least partly the product of imaginative elaboration.

After Peter and Paul, Lawrence had the most important cult of any Roman martyr.  An early _memoria_ at his burial location was followed by a basilica erected by the emperor Constantine before the hill containing Lawrence's grave and by another erected by pope Pelagius II cut into the hill and in part directly over the grave.  The site is now occupied by today's basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (a.k.a. San Lorenzo in Verano).

Today (10. August) is Lawrence's feast day in the Roman Catholic Church, in other churches whose sanctoral calendars have been influenced by that of the Roman church, in Orthodox churches, and in other churches employing the Byzantine Rite.

Supplementing the links to images in glass posted earlier today by Gordon Plumb, herewith some other period-pertinent images of St. Lawrence of Rome:

a) as depicted (second from left) in a sixth-century mosaic in Rome's basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura:

b) as depicted (at far right) in the heavily restored later sixth-century mosaics (ca. 561) in the nave of Ravenna's basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo:

c) as depicted in an eighth- or ninth-century fresco in Rome's basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura:

d) as depicted (martyrdom) in the earlier ninth-century frescoes (betw. 824 and 842) in the crypt of Epiphanius at the abbey of San Vincenzo al Volturno (note the inscription identifying the saint as Laurentius [rather than Vincentius]):
Detail view:

e) as depicted (distributing bread to the poor; martyrdom) in the mid-ninth-century Drogo Sacramentary from Metz (Paris, BnF, ms. Latin 9428, fol. 89r):

f) as depicted in the mid-eleventh-century mosaics in the altar area of the cathedral of St. Sofia in Kyiv:

g) as depicted (second from left) in the mid-twelfth-century apse mosaic (1140s) in Rome's basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere:

h) as depicted (martyrdom) in a later twelfth-century glass window panel (betw. ca. 1175 and ca. 1180; head is C19; later restorations) thought to have come from Canterbury cathedral and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:

i) as depicted (third from left) in the later twelfth-century mosaics (ca. 1182) of the basilica cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova in Monreale:

j) as depicted in one of four panels of a full-page illumination in the late twelfth-century so-called Bible of Saint Bertin (ca. 1190-1200; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 5, fol. 28v, sc. 1A):

k) as depicted (martyrdom) in a thirteenth-century fresco in the cripta di Santa Margherita at Melfi (PZ) in Basilicata:

l) as depicted (at lower right; above and to the right, St. Nicholas) as depicted in a thirteenth-century wall painting in Hejdeby kyrka in Hejedby (Gotlands län):

m) as portrayed (martyrdom) on the early thirteenth-century lintel (ca. 1215-1220) of central portal of the basilica cattedrale di San Lorenzo in Genoa:
Detail view:

n) as depicted (scenes) in the earlier thirteenth-century St. Lawrence window in the cathédrale Saint-Étienne in Bourges:

o) as depicted (bottom register) in a lancet of a mid-thirteenth-century window (bay 201; panel 3A; ca. 1245-1250) in the cathédrale Notre-Dame in Strasbourg:
Detail view:

p) as depicted (martyrdom) in an illuminated initial in a mid-thirteenth-century gradual for the Use of the abbey of Fontevrault (ca. 1250-1260; Limoges, Bibliothčque municipale, ms. 2, fol. 167r):

q) as depicted in a later thirteenth-century psalter (betw. 1251 and 1275) of southern Netherlandish origin (London, BL, MS Burney 345, fol. 69r):

r) as depicted in the mid-thirteenth-century frescoes (1259) in the church of Sts. Nicholas and Panteleimon at Boyana near the Bulgarian capital of Sofia:

s) as depicted (distributing to the poor the proceeds of the sale of the church's treasure) in a later thirteenth-century fresco cycle devoted to him (prob. betw. 1276 and 1300) in the narthex of Rome's basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura:
Photographs of the entire cycle are here (image nos. 86-102; for better resolution, click on the images):
An Italian-language key to those scenes:

t) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late thirteenth-century copy of French origin of the _Legenda aurea_ (San Marino, CA, Huntington Library, ms. HM 3027, fol. 97v; image greatly expandable):

u) as depicted (martyrdom) in the late thirteenth-century Livre d'images de Madame Marie (ca. 1285-1290; Paris, BnF, ms. Nouvelle acquisition franēaise 16251, fol. 77v):

v) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Stephen) on the fourteenth-century rood screen in the church of St Andrew, Hempstead (Norfolk):

w) as portrayed in a fourteenth-century statue in multicolored stone mounted in a niche above the Romanesque main portal of the katedrala Sv. Lovre in Trogir (image greatly expandable):
That oversized grill is unlikely to have been affixed to this statue before the latter was relocated to the niche in the seventeenth(?) century.

x) as depicted (at right; at left, St. Ursula) by Simone Martini in a predella panel of his early fourteenth-century St. Catherine polyptych (1319) in Pisa's Museo nazionale di San Matteo:

y) as depicted by Giotto di Bondone in an earlier fourteenth-century panel painting (betw. 1320 and 1330) in the Musée Jacquemart-André's site in Chaalis Abbey in Fontaine-Chaalis (Oise):

z) as depicted (before the emperor Decius; martyrdom) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (betw. 1326 and 1350; Paris, BnF, ms. Franēais 185, fol. 98r):

aa) as depicted by the Master of the Fogg Pietą in an earlier fourteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1335) in the Courtauld Gallery in London:

bb) as twice depicted (distributing bread to the poor; martyrdom) in an earlier fourteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (ca. 1335; Paris, BnF, ms. Arsenal 5080, fol. 194r):

cc) as depicted in a later fourteenth-century vault painting in Birkerųd kirke at Birkerųd (Rudersdal kommune) in Denmark's Region Hovedstaden:

dd) as depicted by Theodoric of Prague in a later fourteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1360-1364) in the chapel of the Holy Cross in Karlštejn Castle at Karlštejn in the Czech Republic:

ee) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late fourteenth-century Franciscan missal of Milanese origin (ca. 1385-1390; Paris, BnF, ms. latin 758, fol. 347r):

ff) as portrayed in a late fourteenth-century silver gilt reliquary statue (ca. 1390) from Senden in the Münsterland, now in the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur in Münster:

gg) as depicted (martyrdom) in a late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (Rennes, Bibliothčque de Rennes Métropole, ms. 266, fol. 206r):

hh) as depicted in a panel of the fifteenth-century rood screen in the church of St Mary in Somerleyton (Suffolk):

ii) as depicted by Lorenzo di Niccolņ in two of six early fifteenth-century predella panels devoted to Lawrence (ca. 1412) in the Brooklyn Museum in New York:
1) martyrdom:
2) releasing souls from Purgatory:

jj) as depicted (martyrdom) by Jacobello del Fiore in an earlier fifteenth-century panel painting (ca. 1425) in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam:

kk) as portrayed (at right; at left, St. Stephen) by Donatello in an earlier fifteenth-century terracotta relief (betw. 1428 and 1435) in the old sacristy of Florence's basilica di San Lorenzo:

ll) as depicted (at left; at right: St. Matthias) in an earlier fifteenth-century tracery panel (ca. 1430-1450) in Window 2 of the south nave of the church of St Mary, North Tuddenham (Norfolk):

mm) as depicted in the mid-fifteenth-century vault paintings of saints in Överselö kyrka, Överselö (Södermanlands län):

nn) as depicted (martyrdom) in an initial 'L' by the court workshop of Frederick III in a mid-fifteenth-century copy of the _Legenda aurea_ (1446-1447; Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. 326, fol. 156v):

oo) as depicted (scenes; also scenes of St. Stephen) by Beato Angelico in mid-fifteenth-century frescoes (1447-1450) on three walls of the Cappella Niccolina in the papal palace at the Vatican (mages expandable):

pp) as depicted in grisaille by Jean le Tavernier in the mid-fifteenth-century Hours of Philip of Burgundy (ca. 1451-1460; Den Haag, KB, ms. 76 F 2, fol. 256v):

qq) as depicted in a panel of the mid-fifteenth-century Konhofer window (after 1452) in the St. Lorenzkirche in Nürnberg:

rr) as depicted (scenes, from imprisonment to martyrdom) in a later fifteenth-century copy of Vincent of Beauvais' _Speculum historiale_ in its French-language version by Jean de Vignay (1463; Paris, BnF, ms. Franēais 51, fol. 31r):

ss) as depicted by Michael Pacher in two panels from his dismembered later fifteenth-century altarpiece (ca. 1465) for the parish church in today's St. Lorenzen im Pustertal / San Lorenzo di Sebato (BZ) in Trentino - Alto Adige, now in the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere in Vienna:
1) as commanded, showing Decius the treasure of the church (in this case, the poor and the halt):
2) his parting from St. Sixtus:

tt) as depicted (at right; at left, St. John the Baptist) by Carlo Crivelli in his later fifteenth-century polyptych of Massa Fermana (1468) in the chiesa dei Santi Lorenzo e Silvestro in Massa Fermana (FM) in the Marche:

uu) as portrayed in relief (at center in this view) on the later fifteenth-century bronze baptismal font (1473) in the St.-Laurentius-Kirche in Müden, a locality of Faßberg (Lkr. Celle) in Niedersachsen:

vv) as depicted by Bartolomeo della Gatta in a later fifteenth-century fresco (1476) in the chiesa di Badia in Arezzo:

ww) as portrayed by the Baseler Master of St. Lawrence (a somewhat earlier artist from Köln is also referred to in this way) in a later fifteenth-century polychromed limewood statue (ca. 1480) in the Historisches Museum Basel:
Detail view:

xx) as depicted by Antoniazzo Romano (foreground, at far right) in a late fifteenth-century panel painting of the Nativity with Saints (ca. 1480-1485) in the Galleria nazionale d'Arte Antica in Rome:

yy) as portrayed (distributing bread to the poor) by the Master of the Sonnenberg-Künigl Altar in a late fifteenth-century polychromed wood relief (ca. 1490) from Bruneck / Brunico in today's Trentino - Alto Adige, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York:

zz) as depicted in the early sixteenth-century paintings (ca. 1500-1520) in the choir of Hald kirke (Gjerlev kommune) in Midtjylland:

aaa) as thrice portrayed in relief (just right of center in the central compartment and, showing stages of his martyrdom, on the two panels of the adjacent wing) on the Mauritius-Laurentius-Altar (1515) in the Münster St. Marien und Jakobus in Heilsbronn (Lkr. Ansbach) in Bavaria:

bbb) as portrayed in high relief on the early sixteenth-century west portal (ca. 1517) of the Dom St. Johannes und St. Laurentius in Merseburg:

John Dillon
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