This week the Church celebrates some very special feasts. Friday is the Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. This feast day celebrates the lives of those who were martyred during the rule of Emperor Nero from about 54-68. Nero was a ruthless and unstable man. He blamed the early Christians for a fire that destroyed two-thirds of the city of Rome. Some believe Nero himself started the fire to clear land for future building.
Sts. Peter and Paul were among thousands of Christians that were killed at the hand of Nero. Thursday is their feast day. They were martyred around the year 64 A.D. Tradition holds that Peter was fleeing Rome to avoid arrest and on the outskirts of the city saw Jesus on the road. Peter asked him, “Where are you going, Lord? (In Latin Quo Vadis)”. Jesus answered: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” (Two foot prints in marble thought to be those of Jesus remain inside the Church of Quo Vadis.) Peter returned to the city and was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to meet his death the same way as Christ.
St. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and was sent to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest. He was martyred by beheading. San Paolo alle Tre Fontane in English, St. Paul at the Three Fountains is a church dedicated to St. Paul the Apostle, at the presumed site of his martyrdom in Rome. Legend relates that, when St. Paul was decapitated, his head bounced three times and fountains miraculously sprang up at each place where it touched the ground.
There is a legend that the city of Rome was founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus, who were raised by wolves. Peter and Paul came to be called the new founders of Rome.