August 10th is the feast day of St Lawrence, one of the most venerated figures in Christendom, and the patron saint of cooks.
Aside from the twelve apostles and St Paul, no one achieved greater prominence in the early church than St Lawrence, who was the archdeacon of Rome at the time of the persecutions of the Christians by the emperor Valerian (r. 253-60).
In Rome no fewer than 45 churches and oratories are dedicated to St Lawrence, a number exceeded only by churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. San Lorenzo fuori le Mura stands near his place of burial; San Lorenzo in Panisperna stands on the site of his martyrdom; while the gridiron, the instrument of his martyrdom, can be found in San Lorenzo in Lucina.
Lawrence was a Christian martyr of Spanish birth, who died in Rome in 258. He was ordained deacon by Pope Sixtus II (r. 257-258) and met his death shortly after the pope's own martyrdom. According to tradition, St Lawrence was roasted alive on a gridiron, a torture he is said to have met with equanimity, merely observing, after a while, that he was done enough on one side and it was time to turn him over. St Lawrence duly became the patron saint of chefs!
The saint's feast day coincides with the peak of the Perseids, an annual shower of meteors, which have come to be known in Italy as the 'lacrime di San Lorenzo' (tears of St Lawrence).