Saints: Saint Peter at the Circus

Located at the foot of Capitoline Hill, Roma, Italia.

The Mamertine Prison consists of two gloomy underground cells where Rome’s vanquished enemies were imprisoned and usually died, of either starvation or strangulation. Famous prisoners here include the Goth Jugurtha, the Berber King who helped Scipio the Younger, incite a Civil War, the indomitable Gaul Vercingetorix, who was unsuccessful against Julius Caesar and most importantly. Sts Peter & Paul

There is no archaeological evidence or early written account that Peter was here, but it is not impossible. Paul may have been detained here before he was executed at the Aquas Salvias (at the Abbazia delle Tre Fontane) and Peter before being executed in Nero’s circus on Vatican Hill.

Paul mentions imprisonment several times in his letters, such as in Philippians 1:13: “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;” KJV.

According to later legend, St. Peter caused a spring to miraculously well up in the prison so that he could baptize his fellow prisoners. This spring is said to have miraculously cured the illnesses of pilgrims.

from the Encylopaedia Britannica

The circus is of comparatively recent origin, yet certain elements can be traced back to ancient Rome. The great Roman amphitheatres—called circuses after the Latin word for “circle”—were most often devoted to gladiatorial combats, chariot races, the slaughter of animals, mock battles, and other blood sports.

The most spectacular of these arenas, the Circus Maximus, was in operation for more than 1,000 years. It would seem on the surface that these exhibitions of carnage had little in common with modern circuses, yet it is from the early Roman circuses that traditions such as trained animals and the preshow parade derive.

Elsewhere, ancient peoples performed other acts associated with the modern circus. Acrobatics, balancing acts, and juggling are probably as old as humankind itself, with records of such acts being performed in Egypt as early as 2500 bce.

The Greeks practiced rope dancing; early African civilizations engaged in siricasi (a combination of folkloric dances and acrobatics); and the ancient Chinese juggled and performed acrobatic acts for members of the imperial court. Clowns have existed in nearly every period and civilization, both as characters in farces and as individual performers.