St. Laurence and the Church’s Treasures

LAURENCE WAS ONE OF SEVEN DEACONS in Rome in 257–258. Emperor Valerian was carrying on the persectuion begun by Decius, his predecessor—the harshest trials the church had yet seen. Yet the church in Rome was still active. One report from the third century said that 1,500 widows and orphans were cared for by the roman Church.

According to an ancient tradition, the prefect—the official head of the empire’s pagan religion—ordered that Laurence hand over all the Church’s treasure. As told by Ambrose: “For when the treasures of the church were demanded from him, he promised that he would show them. On the following day he brought the poor together . . . [and distributed the riches to them.] When asked where the treasures were which he had promised, he pointed to the poor, saying, ‘These are the treasure of the Church.’ And truly they were treasures, in whom Christ lives, in whom there is faith in him. . . . These treastues Laurence pointed out, and prevailed, for the persecutors could not take them away.”

Ambrose relates, “Laurence, who preferred to spend the gold of the Church on the poor, rather than keep it in hand for the persecutor, received the sacred ccrown of martyrdom for his unique and deep—sighted vigor. . . . ” Ancient tradition says Laurence was roasted to death; historians believe he was beheaded.

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #19 in 1988]

Next articles

The Tribute Money by Masaccio

A new look at a famous painting.

the Editors

From the Archives: Andrew Carnegie

For Carnegie, “the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense, the property of the many.”

Andrew Carnegie

From the Archives: Desiderius Erasmus

The Despising of Riches (c 1488) Based on the translation by Thomas Paynells, as it appeared in the Bethelet edition of 1533.

Desiderius Erasmus

We’re Sorry Gladys . . . But God Can’t Use You in China

Gladys Aylward was told she’d never be able to learn Chinese.

the Editors
Show more

Subscribe to magazine

Subscription to Christian History magazine is on a donation basis


Support us

Christian History Institute (CHI) is a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation founded in 1982. Your donations support the continuation of this ministry


Subscribe to daily emails

Containing today’s events, devotional, quote and stories