by Will Conley
This is Part One in a series of five posts about real librarians who are completely and utterly badass. We at This Blog Rules are looking at you, and we’re thinking, “This reader looks like he hasn’t read a book since 1995. Well fuck him. If he can’t get his ass to a library every couple of decades, we’ll bring the library to him — except without the dust and that homeless dude rolling his daily cigarettes in a corner study station.” Thus was born this series. We hope you enjoy it.
Librarians come in three popular flavors:
That selection seems a bit limited to us. We submit for your consideration a fourth kind of librarian: the prodigiously indestructible-nadded.
And no, we’re not talking about Conan the Librarian. He’s fake by two degrees. We’re talking about real, live librarians whose testicles or ovaries could balance the Encyclopedia Britannica on the Scales of Justice.
History is studded with librarians who thumped their hefty baby-coders onto the proverbial chopping block in the name of truth, justice, the church, poor people, gay people, and the right of all people to upend a urinal and make everyone call it art.
Take this patron saint of librarians and archivists, for starters…
Saint Lawrence the Librarian
In third century Italy, pagan was the thing to be. The phrase “I’m a Christian” was slang for “It would be my honor for you to burn and then pee on me.”
Most folks were glad to take you up on it, too. In August of 258, the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered his brute squads to seek and destroy all bishops, priests and deacons. Valerian’s headhunters martyred six deacons before nabbing a seventh—a deacon named Lawrence, whose job it was to keep track of the church archives—and dragged him before the emperor.
Valerian ordered Lawrence to use his insider knowledge to track down “all the treasures of the church” and bring them hither. Valerian gave Lawrence two days to deliver the loot along with the names and whereabouts of any remaining clergy for ransoming purposes, because metric shitte-tonnes of alms was apparently chump change.
So off Lawrence went, a suspiciously cheerful whistle on his lips. When he returned, he presented to Valerian not material riches, but all the poorest, filthiest, sickest Christians he could round up.
“These,” said Lawrence, his balls thundering throughout the land, “are the treasures of the church.”
Valerian killed him a lot for that little zinger.
Historians maintain that Lawrence probably died by beheading. The commonly accepted legend, however—which we choose to believe simply because it reminds us of Jack Bauer—was that he was slow-roasted on a huge grill in an attempt to get him to cough up the goods. But when the tantalizing smell of Lawrence’s cooking flesh had sufficiently perfumed the town square, Lawrence said to his torturers:
“Turn me over. I am done on this side.”
You could practically hear the spontaneous impregnation of every woman in Rome.
The church reaped a nice crop of groupies that year. The market had spoken: the grilling story must be true. Since then, artists have always depicted Saint Lawrence holding a grill. For that reason, this patron saint of librarians is also a patron saint of cooks, which is both true and adorably ignorant on the part of whoever made that call.
Now, just because St. Lawrence was obviously a righteous son of a bitch, don’t go thinking church figures always play the honorable victim in this series. Fastforward a century and a half, and the power relationship between Christians and pagans is the exact opposite.
Tune in next time for Part Two, tentatively titled Hypatia: The Genius Scholar Who Advises Powerful Men, Defies the Maniacally Ignorant Establishment, and Throws Her Bloody Menstrual Rags at Lovelorn Suitors.
Author Will Conley has regular-sized gonads, for a horse. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of ThisBlogRules.