10th August - Feast of St Lawrence

Written by Anne Newman - Friday, 9th August 2019

This photo of St Laurence's Church is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Saint Lawrence, a christian deacon, was martyred on 10th August 258 during the persecution of the emperor Valerian along with many other members of the Roman clergy. He was the last of the seven deacons of Rome to die.

Lawrence was born on 31st December 225 in Valencia. The martyrs Orentius are traditionally held to have been his parents.

The pope, Sixtus II, was killed on 6th August, and Lawrence became the principal authority of the Roman Church, as he was the Church's treasurer. The Prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth and he worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property as possible to the poor On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, who ordered him to deliver the treasures of the Church. Lawrence presented a handful of crippled, poor, and sick men and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church declaring to the prefect,

"The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor."

He was killed by being cooked alive on a gridiron.

Legend has it that one of his last words were

“Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

St. Lawrence's death is commemorated every year on his feast day.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls), Rome, was built over his burial place. It became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favourite place for Roman pilgrimages.

He is the patron saint of the poor and of cooks.

Places named after St Laurence.

Two universities bear his name:

On the Feast of St. Lawrence in 1535, French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived at the river estuary of the Great Lakes in Canada and named it the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The river emptying into the gulf was named the St. Lawrence River. There are also the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal.

Perseids Meteor Shower

Catholics began calling the annual Perseid meteors the “The Tears of St. Lawrence", the fiery bits of debris during a meteor shower being seen as representative of the coals that killed St. Lawrence.

August is the time for one of the best Meteor showers of the year. The Perseids can be seen each year from 17th July – 24th August but the peak time, with the most meteors, is 12th August.

The meteors are called the Perseids because the point from which they appear lies in the constellation Perseus and are the results of the earth passing through the trail of debris left behind from the path of the comet Swift–Tuttle.

In 2019 the Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of 11 to 13th August, but they will be harder to see as there is a full moon due at the same time.

The earliest note of Perseid meteor activity goes back to Chinese records from A.D. 36 which state that "more than 100 meteors flew thither in the morning."

The meteor shower is named for the Perseidai, who were the sons of the ancient Greek hero Perseus. In ancient Greek star lore, Perseus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal Argive princess Danaë (she of the golden rain). It is said that the Perseid shower commemorates the time when Zeus visited Danae in a shower of gold.

Perseus has a constellation named after him because of a number of epic adventures across the Mediterranean and Near East that including the killing of Medusa. Perseus’s also rescued the princess Andromeda after she was abandoned by her parents to placate a sea monster. Andomreda was found by Perseus on a rock by the ocean. He rescued her and married her and they had seven sons and two daughters. Sky watchers believed that the constellation Perseus, located just beside Andromeda in the night sky, was the origin of the shooting stars they could see every summer, and so the name Perseid stuck.

General rules for Perseid watching.

Meteors all come from a single point in the sky. If you trace the paths of the Perseid meteors backwards, you’d find they all come from a point in front of the constellation Perseus. Don’t worry about which stars are Perseus. Just enjoying knowing and observing that they all come from one place on the sky’s dome.

Link to good places to watch

Beliefs around meteors and meteorites

People all over the world have many different beliefs around meteors and meteorites. I remember my mum telling me that each shooting star was a soul going to heaven.

In the Philippines when you see a meteor, you must one must tie a knot in a handkerchief before it’s light goes.

New Guinea tribes thought that the shooting star was the woman in the moon descending to earth to capture someone to take her place.

Australian Aborigines call meteors the fire sticks of their dead enemies.

In parts of Asia meteors are called Fire serpents.

In Siberia, Fireworms came to earth at night to prey on mortals and drink their blood.

In Europe, shooting stars used to be seen as omens of dangerous times. Pointing to a meteor or talking of a meteor was considered bad luck by some. In Switzerland, a meteor was considered to possess the power of God. Swabians believed that a shooting star presaged a year of good fortune, but if one saw three in one night, then he was doomed to die.

Some East African tribes consider shooting stars to be the manifestations of a deity. Other tribes see them as bad omens.

Native American tribes had a wide variety of beliefs about shooting stars, seeing them as war omens, as travelling spirits of heroes, and even as the faeces of stars.

In Chile when you see a meteor, you must pick up a stone.

So many thoughts on shooting stars. hopefully there will be a few clear nights and we can see them, regardless of what our belief is.


Anne is sharing a series of events throughout the year - you can find them listed by clicking to the link Other Notable Dates and Festivals.