|Fra Angelico, 1447-1450|
St Lawrence before Valerian
After the death of Pope St Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. St Laurence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom.
Tradition holds that Laurence was burned or "grilled" to death, hence his association with the gridiron. Tradition also holds that Lawrence joked about their cooking him enough to eat while he was burning on the gridiron, stating something along the lines of, "turn me over ... I'm done on this side".