St. Peters Fountain

Caligula was assassinated before he could finish the circus and it was completed some thirteen years later by Nero, under whom it became the scene of those atrocities against the Christians which have rendered his reign infamous. St. Peter was crucified one year before the death of Nero. His cross was raised on the spina of the circus at an exact distance between the two goals-metas-built at either end of the amphitheatre, and therefore, at the foot of the obelisk which stood on that spot.

Christian tradition handed down the description of the place between the two goals (inter duas metas). Now meta was a name afterward given to tombs of pyramidal shape, two of which existed in mediaeval Rome-one, that of Caius Cestius, still standing next to the present Protestant Cemetery, and the other in the Borgo Vecchio, destroyed later by Alexander VI. A straight line drawn from one of these tombs to the other has its centre in a point on the Janiculum, and therefore this spot was thought to be the exact location of St. Peters martyrdom. Even to-day visitors to the exquisite Tempietto of Bramante, erected in the cloister of the Church of San Pietro in Montorio, are shown below its pavement the very stone in which the cross of St. Peter was fixed. The legend of this location for the crucifixion of St. Peter grew up during the Middle Ages, a period in which all knowledge of the authentic site was entirely lost. Modern archaeology has recently succeeded in locating this position and its topography can now be easily understood.

When the Emperor Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity, determined to build a basilica in honor of St. Peter, he planned to erect the edifice so that its centre should rise directly over the tomb of St. Peter, who, according to historical documents, was buried not far from the scene of his martyrdom. To do this, he found himself obliged to build so near the Circus of Caligula and Nero that the southern wall of his edifice corresponded exactly to the northern wall of the Circus. He therefore used this wall of the Circus as the southern foundation wall of his church. This naturally brought the southern side of the old St. Peters within a very short distance of the spina of the Circus, on which stood the obelisk, with a chapel before it called the Chapel of the Crucifixion.

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