Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday of First Week: San Lorenzo in Panisperna

Today's church is in the exact same direction as St. Mary Major, except about a block closer to the College.  No worries, though, that's still a fair 40 minute walk!  Although we do a bit of a speed walk in the mornings (no use entering a station church during Lent without perspiration) so we got there in about 34 minutes.  I only know because I checked my watch at departure and arrival.

This little guy is just a small chapel compared to yesterday's church.  In fact, we didn't even all fit in it for Mass!  Half of us were standing along the aisles and in the back, and about 20 guys were standing outside the front entrance.

San Lorenzo in Panisperna

This church is named after the deacon St. Lawrence who was martyred on this very spot on the 10th of August in 258 AD under Emperor Valerian.  I believe I may have told this story before, but it's good to recall it again.  Lawrence was given administration of the Church after the arrest of Pope Sixtus II and four of his fellow deacons in the Catacombs of Callixtus on the 6th of August.  He met the pope as the group of five were being led to prison and execution, begging to be able to accompany him.  The pope declined, giving Lawrence charge of the Church's temporal goods while telling the deacon that he would follow his bishop in four days' time.

So Lawrence went forth and distributed all the material goods of the Church to the poor of Rome, and himself was soon arrested for being Christian.  Brought before the magistrates who demanded that he hand over the Church's treasure, he went and gathered the poor of the city and presented them to the Roman officials, saying that they were the true treasures of the Church.  Well you can imagine how that went down!

The magistrates were enraged and threw him in a dark prison cell nearby, whereby he proceeded to convert the jailer and his family to Christianity.  In utter frustration they demanded that Lawrence be burnt alive over a gridiron, which was subsequently set up on the site of today's station.  So on the 10th of August, as his bishop had prophesied, the deacon Lawrence was martyred, burnt alive for his steadfast faith in Christ.  But not to be outwitted even til the end, his final remarks to his executioners were the words, "Turn me over, I'm done on this side."

Ok I broke my rule again.  But I had to!  This is a reliquary room located behind the sacristy of the church with a whole wall full of the bones of saints.  You can see a few skulls above.
Records of a church on this site exist from at least the late 800s, then called St. Lawrence in Formonso, so-called because of its association with Pope Formosus, who led the Church from 891 - 896 AD.  The current church was built to replace the original one in the period 1565-74, and a restoration in 1757 gave the church the appearance it has today.

One neat thing, the fresco behind the main altar which you see above is the second largest in Rome, behind only the Final Judgment fresco of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.  It is the scene of Lawrence's martyrdom on the gridiron while the emperor looks on.  Also in this church is the original sarcophagus of St. Brigid of Sweden and the relics of the brothers, Ss. Crispin and Crispinian (martyred 285 AD under Diocletian).  You may recognize their names from Shakespeare's Henry V, where the famous 'St. Crispin's Day' speech ("...We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...") was given on their feast, the 25th of October.

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