Did you know that June 29th is St. Peter and Paul’s Day, an important feast day in the Catholic church? Roman schools and banks are closed and the city celebrates with both religious and secular festivities. Check out this blog to learn more about the two saints who are celebrated on this major Roman holiday.
Facts about St. Peter and St. Paul
St. Peter and Paul are both patron saints of Rome and considered cornerstones of the Church. St. Peter was one of the 12 apostles, as well as the first pope and founder of the Roman Church. He was martyred sometime around AD 64 in the circus of Nero. Since he was not a Roman citizen his death was crucifixion.
According to tradition, he requested to be crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same way as Jesus. He was buried in the Vatican Necropolis which was next to the Circus.
When the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, he decided to build a church in the saint’s honor above his grave. We all know this church today as St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City.
St. Paul was also an apostle, responsible for much of the New Testament. Although he never met Jesus, he is widely acclaimed as one of the most important apostles who spread the word of Jesus and the nascent Christianity. 13 out of the 27 books of the bible are attributed to St. Paul.
During Nero’s persecution ofo the Christians, Paul was martyred as well. Since he was a Roman citizen his death was the more lenient beheading. According to tradition, his head bounced three times, creating a spring of water with each bounce. Today you can still visit a monastery and drink the water from these springs!
Why do we Celebrate St. Peter and Paul’s Day?
Why are St. Peter and Paul celebrated together? St. Peter and Paul’s day is the feast day that honors the martyrdom of the two saints, sometime between AD 64 and 68. While the church recognizes that they may not have died on the same day, tradition says that this is the day that they were both martyred in Rome by Emperor Nero.
The day is a solemnity or a feast day of the highest rank. This honor is reserved for only the most important events, like events in the lives of Jesus or Mary. Therefore this emphasizes just how important the two saints are to the Catholic faith.
How is St. Peter and Paul’s Day Celebrated?
St. Peter and Paul’s Day is celebrated on June 29th. It is honored across the world, but it is only a major holiday in Rome. Schools, banks and stores are closed, as well as the Vatican, and the city is full of both religious and secular celebrations. The pope holds a mass in which he gives a pallium—a special vestment worn over the shoulders—to archbishops appointed in the past year.
The bronze statue of St. Peter in the Vatican is decorated with traditional attire, including a rich red robe, rings, and a crown. Other celebrations include flowers and fireworks.
You can see an elaborate carpet of flowers starting in St. Peter’s Square and leading down Via Della Conciliazione toward the River Tiber. In the evening, you can see fireworks set off at the Piazza del Popolo. They start at 9:30 p.m., but the festivities start long before that.
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