At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

First Martyrs Day

Nero blamed Christians for his own crimes



Henryk Siemiradzki's painting shows trussed up Christian captives about to be torched in Rome in AD64
Henryk Siemiradzki's painting shows trussed up Christian
captives about to be torched in Rome in AD64
Christians martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero in AD 64 are remembered every year on this day in Italy.

The Catholic Church celebrates the lives of the many men and women put to death by Nero, who are now known as i Primi Martiri, first martyrs of the Church of Rome, with a feast day every year on 30 June.

In the summer of AD 64, Rome was devastated by fire. The unpopular emperor Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace, was suspected of setting fire to the city himself but he accused the early Christians then living in Rome and had them executed.

Some were fed to wild animals, some crucified, while others were burnt to death to illuminate the sky and provide evening entertainment.

The feast of the First Martyrs came into the Church calendar in 1969 as a general celebration day for the early Roman martyrs. It falls the day after the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome.


Part of a fresco from Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome, which can be found in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford
Part of a fresco from Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome, which
can be found in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford
Travel tip:

After the fires had cleared the existing buildings away, Nero had an elaborate villa, his Golden House (Domus Aurea), built a short walk away from the Colosseum on Palatine Hill in Rome. Construction took place between AD 64 and the Emperor’s suicide in AD 68. The site of the villa in Viale Domus Aurea can be visited during a guided tour to view the restoration works. 

Travel tip:

There is a permanent memorial to the First Martyrs in Piazza di Protomartiri Romani, which is close to the Basilica of Saint Peter inside Vatican City in Rome.

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