Lawrence, according to Wikipedia, originally came from Valencia in Spain. He was a young deacon in Rome under Pope Sixtus II, before Christianity became the established religion, at the time when the Emperor Valerian launched a persecution against the early church. In 258 Sixtus was beheaded while celebrating the liturgy and Lawrence was ordered to hand over the church’s treasured possessions. He asked for three days to gather them, over which time he distributed the precious things amongst the community before presenting himself with a delegation of marginalised and disabled people.
“Where are the treasures of the church?” the prefect demanded.
“These are the treasures of the church,” Lawrence replied, meaning the people.
For this he is believed to have been slowly grilled on a griddle on 10th August, his feast day.
“Turn me over, I’m done,” he was able to joke, it is said. He is the patron saint of cooks.
However, spelt with a u, another saint appeared over 300 years later. This Laurence accompanied St. Augustine on Pope Gregory’s mission to establish Roman Christianity in Britain. Based at Canterbury, Laurence succeeded Augustine as the second archbishop in the early seventh century, dying in 619. Of course the British or Celtic church had been here a long time by then – three British bishops are recorded being present at the Council of Arles in 314. Little survives except inscribed stones and the anonymous poetry of the Irish Annals with its reverence for the natural world.
The Roman delegation apparently met the British at St. Augustine’s Oak and it was noted that as the missionaries did not stand when the native party arrived, the meeting failed to find common ground. The Oak possibly stood by the Thames at Cricklade or near the Severn at Arlingham. It was, at least, somewhere in this area. Half a century later, Wilfred swung it for Rome at the Synod of Whitby and the rest is history. The Venerable Bede in 731 recorded that Laurence attempted to establish the Roman date for Easter with the Gregorian calendar. The British bishops, however, refused to accept it.
Near to St. Laurence Church at Didmarton, there is a well named after him. Perhaps he drank from it on his way to or from the meeting at the Oak and perhaps he rested here in Stroud.