Legend has it that Roman Emperor Valerian ordered Saint Lawrence’s execution on August 10, during his persecution of Christians in AD 258.
Instead of giving away church secrets while being roasted alive over a gridiron, Lawrence simply said to his torturers in Latin: “Ecce, miser, assasti tibi partem unam, regira aliam et manduca” (Here, you miserable person: you have roasted one side for yourself, now turn me over and eat).
His martyrdom and dry sense of humour earned the deacon his patronage over librarians, bakers, cooks and comedians – for obvious reasons.
The Feast Day of Saint Lawrence is a particularly special event in the Tuscan capital of Florence, and the neighbourhood which bears his name.
Saint Lawrence is the co-patron saint (along with Saint John) of Florence, and it was in his name that the first church of the city was consecrated in 393.
On August 10, Florentines gather in the piazza outside the Basilica di San Lorenzo for a magical day and night of festivities, food, live music and shooting stars.
Yes, you heard correctly: shooting stars....
Each year, the Perseids meteor shower coincides with the Feast Day of Saint Lawrence, and the show of shooting stars is famously known as “the tears of San Lorenzo”.
After festivalgoers have had their fill of free lasagne and watermelon, they head to the surrounding hills (or an open terrace) to enjoy the spectacular scenes overhead.
Locals usually head back along the Arno river to see the stars better (Piazzale Michelangelo and the footbridge of the Passerella dell’Isolotto are two of the most popular spots), while the true fans of this event head out of the city, to the Cave di Maiano in Fiesole or the Roveta di Scandicci.
As the martyr’s tears illuminate the sky, there’s just one thing left to do: make a wish!