Nero blamed Christians for his own crimes
Henryk Siemiradzki's painting shows trussed up Christian
captives about to be torched in Rome in AD64
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
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.
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.