Saint Lawrence

Here followeth the Life of S. Laurence

Laurence, martyr and subdeacon, was of the lineage of Spain, and S. Sixtus brought him thence. And as Master John Beleth saith: When the blessed Sixtus went into Spain, he found there two young men, Laurence, and Vincent his cousin, right ordinate by honesty of manners, and noble in all their works, and brought them with him to Rome. Of whom that one, that was Laurence, abode with him, and Vincent his cousin returned into Spain, and there finished his life by glorious martyrdom. But in this reason Master Beleth repugneth the time of martyrdom of that one and of that other. For it is said that Laurence suffered death under Decius, and Vincent under Diocletian, and between Decius and Diocletian were about forty years. And there were seven emperors between them, so that the blessed Vincent might not be young, and the blessed Sixtus ordained Laurence his archdeacon. And in his time Philip the emperor, and Philip his son, received the faith of Jesu Christ. And when they were christened, they entended greatly to enhance the church. And this emperor was the first that received the faith of Jesu Christ, whom, as it is said, Origen converted to the faith. How be it that it is read in another place otherwise, and that S. Pontius had done it. And he reigned the year one thousand from the building of Rome, so that the year one thousand should rather be given to Christ than to the idols. And that year was hallowed of the Romans with right great apparel of games and great esbatements. And there was a knight with Philip the emperor named Decius, which was noble, and much renowned in arms and in battles. And when in that time France rebelled against this emperor, he sent thither Decius for to take away the contentious and subdue them to Rome. And Decius, so sent thither, made all things well, and subdued them all to Rome, and had victory. And when the emperor heard his coming, and would honour him more highly, and went against him unto Verona, but for as much as evil people feel them more honoured, so much more they are swollen in pride, then Decius, elate in pride, began to covet the empire, and on a time when Decius knew that the emperor slept in his pavilion, he entered in secretly and cut the throat of his lord sleeping. And then he drew to him by gifts and prayers, and also by promises, all them of the host that the emperor had brought, and went anon to the city of Rome. And when Philip the younger heard this thing, he was sore afraid and doubted strongly. And as Sicardus saith in his chronicle, he delivered all his father's treasure and his, to S. Sixtus and to S. Laurence, to the end that if it happed to him to be slain of Decius that they should give this treasure to poor people and to the churches. And wonder not that the treasures that Laurence gave be not named the treasures of the emperor, but of the church, or peradventure they were said treasures of the church. For Philip had left them to be dispended to the church, and after, Philip fled and hid him for fear of Decius. And then the senate went against Decius and confirmed him in the empire. And because he was not seen to have slain his lord by treason, but only for he had renied the idols, therefore he began right cruelly to persecute the church and christian men, and commanded that they should be destroyed without mercy. And many thousand martyrs were slain, among whom Philip was crowned with martyrdom. And after that Decius made a search of the treasures of his lord. Then was Sixtus brought to him as he that adored Jesu Christ, and had the treasures of the empire. And then commanded Decius that he should be put in prison so long that, by torments he should reny God, and tell where the treasures were. And the blessed Laurence followed him, and cried after him: Whither goest thou, father without a minister? What thing is in me that hath displeased thy fatherhood, or what thing hast thou seen in me? Hast thou seen me forsake my lineage, or go out of kind? Prove me whether thou hast chosen a convenable minister to whom thou hast committed the dispensation of the body and blood of our Lord. To whom S. Sixtus said: I shall not leave thee, my son, but greater strifes and battles be due to thee for the faith of Jesu Christ. We, as old men, have taken more lighter battle, and to thee as to a young man shall remain a more glorious battle of which thou shalt triumph and have victory of the tyrant, and shalt follow me within three days. Then he delivered to him all the treasures, commanding him that he should give them to churches and poor people. And the blessed man sought the poor people night and day, and gave to each of them that as was needful, and came to the house of an old woman, which had hid in her house many christian men and women, and long she had had the headache, and S. Laurence laid his hand opon her head, and anon she was healed of the ache and pain.

And he washed the feet of the poor people and gave to each of them alms. The same night he went to the house of a christian man and found therein a blind man, and gave to him his sight by the sign of the cross. And when the blessed Sixtus would not consent to Decius, ne offer to the idols, he commanded that he should be led forth and beheaded. And the blessed Laurence ran after him and said: Forsake me not, holy father, for I have dispended the treasures that thou deliveredst to me. And when the knights heard speak of the treasures, they took Laurence and brought him to the provost, and the provost delivered him to Decius. And Decius Caesar said to him: Where be the treasures of the church, which we know well that thou hast hid? And he answered not. Wherefore he delivered him to Valerianus the provost to the end that he should show the treasures and do sacrifice to the idols, or to put him to death by divers torments. And Valerianus delivered him to a provost named Hippolitus for to be in prison. And he enclosed him in prison with many others. And there was in prison a paynim named Lucillus, which had lost the sight of his eyes with overmuch weeping. And S. Laurence promised to him to re-establish his sight if he would believe in Jesu Christ and receive baptism, and he required anon to be baptized. Then S. Laurence took water and said to him: All things in confession be washed. And when he had diligently informed him in the articles of the faith, and he confessed that he believed all, he shed water on his head, and baptized him in the name of Jesu Christ. And anon, he that had been blind received his sight again. And therefore came to him many blind men, and went again enlumined from him, and having their sight. And then again Hippolitus said to him: Show to me the treasures; to whom Laurence said: Hippolitus, if thou wilt believe in our Lord Jesu Christ, I shall show to thee the treasures, and promise to thee the life perdurable. And Hippolitus said: If thou dost this that thou sayest, I shall do that thou requirest. And in that same hour Hippolitus believed and received the holy baptism, he and all his meiny. And when he was baptized he said: I have seen the souls of the innocents joyous and glad. And after this, Valerianus sent to Hippolitus that he should bring him Laurence. And Laurence said to him: Let us go together, for the glory is made ready to me and to thee. And then they came to judgment. And he was inquired again of the treasures, and Laurence demanded dilation of three days, and Valerianus granted him on pledge of Hippolitus. And S. Laurence in these three days gathered together poor people, blind and lame, and presented them tofore Decius, in the palace of Salustine, and said: These here be the treasures perdurable, which shall not be minished, but increase, which he departed to each of them. The hands of these men have borne the treasures into heaven. Then Valerianus in the presence of Decius said: What variest thou in many things? Sacrifice anon, and put from thee thine art magic. And Laurence said to him: Whether ought he to be adored that maketh, or he that is made? And then Decius was angry, and commanded that he should be beaten with scorpions, and that all manner of torments should be brought tofore him. And then commanded he him that he should do sacrifice for to eschew these torments, and S. Laurence answered: Thou cursed man, I have always coveted these meats. To whom Decius said: If these be meats for thee, show to me them that be like to thee, that they may eat with thee. To whom Laurence said: They have given their names in to heaven, and thou art not worthy to see them. And then, by the conmmandment of Decius, he was beaten all naked with rods and staves, and pieces of iron burning were laid to his sides. And Laurence said: Lord Jesu Christ, God! Son of God, have mercy upon me, thy servant, which am accused, and I have not renied thee, and they have demanded me, and I have confessed thee to be my Lord. And then Decius said to him: I know well that thou despisest the torments by thine art magic, but me thou mayst not despise. I swear by my gods and goddesses but that thou wilt do sacrifice to them, thou shalt be punished by divers torments. Then he commanded that he should be long beaten with plummets, and then he prayed, saying: Lord Jesu Christ, receive my spirit. And then came a voice from heaven, Decius hearing, which said: Yet many torments be due to thee. And then Decius said, replenished with felony: Ye men of Rome, have ye heard the devils comforting this cursed man, which adored not the gods, ne doubted not the torments, ne dreaded not the prince's wrath? And then commanded he again that he should be beaten with scorpions. And then Laurence smiling rendered thankings to God, and prayed for them that were there. And in that same hour a knight named Romaine believed in God, and said to S. Laurence: I see tofore thee a right fair youngling standing, and with a linen cloth cleansing thy wounds. I adjure thee by the living Lord God that thou leave not, but haste thee to baptize me. And then said Decius to Valerianus: I ween that we shall now be overcome by art magic. And then he commanded that he should be unbounden and enclosed in the prison of Hippolitus. And then Romaine brought an urcelle or a cruse with water, and fell down at the feet of S. Laurence, and received baptism of him. And when Decius knew it, he commanded that Romaine should be beaten with rods, and he was so much beaten that he might not hold him upon his legs, but in no manner might no man make him say but that he was a good christian and freely baptized. And then Decius did do smite off his head. And that night was Laurence led to Decius, and when Hippolitus, which was there, saw that, he began to weep, and would have said that he was christened. And Laurence said to him: Hide Jesu Christ within thee, and when I shall cry, hear and come thither. And then all manner of torments that could be devised or thought were brought tofore Decius. And then said Decius to Laurence: Or thou shalt make sacrifice to the gods, or this night shall all these torments be dispended on thee. And then Laurence said to him: My night hath no darkness, but all things shine in my sight. And then said Decius: Bring hither a bed of iron, that Laurence contumax may lie thereon. And the ministers despoiled him, and laid him stretched out upon a gridiron of iron, and laid burning coals under, and held him with forks of iron. Then said Laurenee to Valerianus: Learn, thou cursed wretch, that thy coals give to me refreshing of coldness, and make ready to thee torment perdurable, and our Lord knoweth that I, being accused, have not forsaken him, and when I was demanded I confessed him Christ, and I being roasted give thankings unto God. And after this he said with a glad cheer unto Decius, Thou cursed wretch, thou hast roasted that one side, turn that other, and eat. And then he, rendering thankings to our Lord, said: I thank thee, Lord Jesu Christ, for I have deserved to enter into thy gates. And so gave up his spirit. And then Decius, being all confused, walked into the palace of Tiberius with Valerianus, and left the body Iying upon the fire, which Hippolitus in the morning took away, with Justin the priest, and buried it with precious ointments in the field Veranus. And the christian men that buried him, fasted three days and three nights, and hallowed the vigils, weeping there and wailing. But many doubt if he suffered under this Decius, for it is read in the chronicle that Sixtus was long after Decius. Eutropius nevertheless affirmeth and saith that, Decius moving persecution against christian men, among other he slew the blessed Laurence, deacon and martyr. And it is said in a chronicle authentic enough, that it was not under this Decius, the emperor that succeeded to Philip, but under another Decius younger, which was Caesar and not emperor, that he suffered martyrdom. For between Decius the emperor and this Decius the younger, under whom it is said that Laurence was martyred, there were many emperors and popes. Also, it is said that Gallus, and Volusianus his son, succeeded Decius. And after them,Valerianus, with Gallianus his son, held the empire, and they made Decius the younger, Caesar, and not emperor. For, anciently, when any was made Caesar, neverthemore he was Augustus ne emperor, as it is read in the chronicles, that Diocletian made Maximian Caesar, and after from Caesar he was made Augustus and emperor. In the time of these emperors, Valerianus and Gallianus, Sixtus held the see of Rome, and this Decius was called Caesar, and not emperor but Decius Caesar only. And he martyred the blessed Fabian, and Cornelius succeeded after Fabian which was martyred under Valerianus and Gallianus, which reigned fifteen years. And Lucian succeeded Cornelius, and Stephen the pope succeeded Lucian, and Denys succeeded Stephen, and Sixtus succeeded Denys. And this is contained in that chronicle, and if this be true, that which Master John Beleth putteth may be true. And it is read in another chronicle that the said Gallianus had two names, and was called Gallianus and Decius, and under him Sixtus and Laurence suffered martyrdom, about the year of our Lord two hundred and sixty. Godfrey, in his book that is called Pantheonides, affirmeth that Gallianus was called by another name, Decius.

Text taken from Medieval Sourcebook: The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda) - Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275 - Englished by William Caxton, 1483.