First Martyrs of the Church of Rome – Feast Day – June 30

Today is Thursday, March 23, 2023

The First Martyrs of the Church of Rome were the Christians who were murdered in the city of Rome by orders of Emperor Nero in 64 AD. These persecutions were very well captured and recorded by a historian named Tacitus and Pope Clement I. The feast day of these Roman Protomartyrs is celebrated as an optional memorial on June 30 every year in the Roman Catholic Church. The feast was placed immediately after the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, who are the patron saints of Rome.

This feast day of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome did not exist before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. It came into the General Roman Calendar after the 1969 calendar reforms.

This feast brought forth a general celebration of early Roman martyrs, although most, if not all, of the early Roman martyrs still retain their place in the Martyrology.

This is how everything that led to the martyrdom started. Rome had a large Jewish population. There were frequent disturbances in the City of Rome due to conflicts between Jews and Jewish Christians. These two factions had serious arguements concerning a certain “Chrestus” (Christ). Therefore, in 49-50 AD, Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews from the city of Rome. After Claudius died in 54 AD, the Jews returned to Rome and met the new emperor called Nero.

One fateful day in July 64 AD, a fire broke out in the city of Rome and destroyed more than half of it. It is believed that Nero might have caused the fire because he wanted to enlarge his palace but unfortunately, Nero blamed it on the Christians in Rome. He claimed that the Christians had “hatred of the human race.”

Consequently, persecution of Christians begun. Some were covered with the skins of animals and were devoured to death by dogs, others were crucified, others were smeered with wax then nailed onto crosses and burnt up in flames. Emperor Nero used the light from the burning bodies as illumination for his gardens at night as he exhibited his circus shows.

Apostles Peter and Paul were among these persecuted victims. They were martyred at that site of Nero’s Circus which is now in the Vatican next to St Peter’s basilica. It is marked by the Square of the Roman Protomartyrs (Piazza dei Protomartiri Romani). Emperor Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

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