The fact that we Ashevilleans could elect a City Council that would even consider putting yet another hotel on the property across from St. Lawrence Basilica shows how debased our economy has made us.
Gazing through a lush, landscaped park on that property, with Rafael Guastavino’s magnificent church providing the backdrop, would be exquisitely tranquil and beautiful while lounging at a Grove Arcade table. Or picnicking under a tree while preparing for your child’s graduation, a concert or a Southern Highland’s Craft Fair. Instead we’ll probably build another rectangular-monstrosity hotel, like the one going up on Biltmore Avenue.
Yes, if we do choose a park, there’ll be some poor people there. But maybe their presence by a basilica that’s supposed to symbolize the infinite compassion of Jesus will shame Asheville into caring for them, rather than seeing them as mainly threats to business.
Looking at the front of the Basilica you see a statue of Saint Lawrence in the center, holding a grid iron. Legend or fact has it that the Romans demanded he fork over the treasures of his church, circa A.D. 300. Instead, Lawrence gave what valuables he had to the poor, and when the Romans came, he presented hundreds of poor people to them saying: “These people are my treasures.”
As a result the Romans burned Lawrence on a grid iron. After a while Lawrence said: “Turn me over, I’m done on that side.” (Look it up!) Thus he is now considered the patron saint of cooks. A sculpture dedicated to St. Lawrence, the many magnificent chefs in Asheville who often labor for little pay and less security and to the poor could be constructed at the center of what should be St. Lawrence’s Poor Chef Park.
— Bill Branyon