For some, the Feast of San Lorenzo brings science and religion together rather beautifully. On the 10th August Italians, particularly the ones named Lorenzo, celebrate the martyrdom of San Lorenzo. It is around this time that the sky offers a particularly fantastic meteor shower, visible from the northern hemisphere. The Perseid Meteor Shower has been aptly referred to as the tears of San Lorenzo.
San Lorenzo, an archivist and librarian of Roman church, was one of the deacons to be sentenced to death during the persecutions under Valerian in 258AD. During his torture, burning on the gridiron, Lorenzo is thought to have cried out: “This side’s done turn me over” which is why Lorenzo, or Lawrence, is the Patron Saint of Comedians, butchers and chefs.
Today, celebrations are held in Rome outside the Church of San Lorenzo which has housed the saint’s tomb since the 4th century. Elsewhere Italians flock to the hills or the beach to watch the meteor shower.
The Perseid Meteor Shower
If you’re in the northern hemisphere you are in for a treat. This year the event will peak on the night of 12th August 2010 although glimpses are possible between 23rd July and 22nd August. Every year as the Earth travels around the sun, it crosses the path of the Perseids meteors. Out of the thousands, some get sucked into the planet’s atmosphere and up to 60 meteors can be spotted every hour with the naked eye.
- Look north-east after midnight.
- Avoid looking directly at the constellation of Perseus, the radiant point.
- Pick a spot away from cities or large towns, the light pollution will interfere.
- Fortunately the moon will only just be forming a crescent so you can be guaranteed a nice dark sky.
- The meteor display really kicks off after midnight and winds down towards dusk.
Interested in astronomy? Read our blog on the northern lights.
If you’re looking for budget accommodation, try hostels in Rome.