These Were St. Lawrence's Last Words Before Death

In the second century A.D., early Christian writer Tertullian famously remarked, "The blood of the martyrs is seed for the Church." It's a little grisly, but the point is well made: Despite — or because of — the execution of nearly all early Christian evangelists at the hands of Roman authorities (including, according to, all but one of the Twelve Apostles), Christianity somehow spread like wildfire throughout the Roman Empire and beyond.

It's no coincidence, then, that the earliest stories to come out of the Christian faith were of martyrs who had died heroic and gruesome deaths. The stories of the early church tend to be full of torture, murder, execution, dismemberment, and various sorts of mutilation — and often topped off with badass Schwarzenegger-worthy one-liners.

One of the more memorable ones is St. Lawrence, an early deacon of Rome who was barbecued alive, and dropped one of history's most memorable disses in the process.

How St. Lawrence became the patron saint of cooks and comedians

St. Lawrence, who lived in the third century, served the local Roman church as a deacon, which meant his job was to help meet the needs of the poor. Unfortunately, his generosity proved to be bad news, as it apparently gave Roman emperor Valerian the impression that the church was rolling in cash. Valerian, accordingly, decided to start murdering church leaders until they forked it over, starting with Pope Sixtus II (via Britannica).

On August 6, A.D. 258, the Roman authorities cornered Lawrence and gave him three days to hand over the church's treasures or else face execution (via "Catholic Encyclopedia," posted at New Advent). Lawrence instead spent the next 72 hours giving away every last cent in the church's coffers to the poor; when the Roman guards showed up to demand the cash, he famously responded that the real treasures of the church were the poor (via Aleteia).

Valerian, who had wanted money, not a bunch of poor people, ordered that Lawrence be laid on a red-hot grill and seared to death. After what must have felt like hours of agony, though, Lawrence landed one last zinger, telling his executioners, "Look, wretch, you have me well done on one side, turn me over and eat!" The guards were not amused, and simply cranked up the heat.

For that final quip, Lawrence is venerated as the patron saint of cooks and comedians.