St. Lawrence was a third century archdeacon of Rome, one of seven deacons who served Pope Xystus (Sixtus) II. The tradition of having seven deacons to serve the Pope comes directly from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6:1-6). On August 6, 258, the Pope and six of his deacons were arrested and held in prison until they were executed. Lawrence was not present at the time as he was distributing alms, which was his chief task, at the time of the arrest. Lawrence was extremely agitated by the fact that he was left behind, but when he visited them in prison, the Pope told him that he would follow in four days.
Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it. On August 10 Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome's crippled, blind, sick and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. Enraged by his refusal to hand over the treasure, Emperor Valerian ordered that he be tortured by being burned on a gridiron.
Lawrence's care for the poor, the ill, and the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including its documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron, and to ask his intercession. And his incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks and those who work in or supply things for the kitchen. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the middle ages as the "burning tears of Saint Lawrence" because they appear at the same time as Lawrence's feast. He is also one of the principal patrons of Rome.