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    Posted March 4, 2008 by
    Vatican, Italy
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel snapshots: Otherworldly landscapes

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    A Secret History of St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City



    The Basilica of St. Peter’s in Vatican City is by far the largest sanctuary

    for all followers of the Christian faith.

    It is dedicated to the apostle Peter (a student and one of the

    successors of Christ Jesus of Nazareth)

    and is reputed to be built over the site of his martyrdom and burial

    place.  But this great holy site for many

    Christians around the world was once an area of pagan prophecy, Roman

    executions, and public display of games.



    The Vatican

    State derives its name

    from an ancient Etruscan god by the name of Vaticanus

    or Vatikanos.  Vaticanus was a god of

    prophecy for the Etruscans, and his temple was built on the ancient site of Vaticanum (Vatican Hill), in the area in

    which St. Peter’s Basilica is situated.

    The holy priests (“prophets” or “seers”) who worshipped Vaticanus were

    called vates.  A legend states the voice of the vates

    motivated the ancient Romans to do battle with the Etruscans and conquer the

    right bank of the Tiberis (Tiber) River.

    Thus, the roots of the great and glorious civilization of the Romans

    were planted in history.



    After the construction of the Aurelian walls, the plain of

    the Vatican was transformed

    into a residential area, which would be located outside of the city of Rome.  One of the first notable residents was

    Agrippina, the wife of Germanic and the mother of the notorious Emperor

    Caligula.  Her villa was built on the

    Vaticanum and her son Caligula constructed a circus, in which he would practice

    riding his two-horse driven chariot.  The

    circus would eventually be passed down to his successor Claudius and after his

    death, it was passed down to the infamous Nero, who was the bane of the early

    Christian movement.



    The circus would be used by Nero’s twisted lust for power,

    greed, and fame as a site for chariot racing and for the vicious persecutions

    of the early Christians.  It would be

    here, not the famed Flavian Amphitheatre

    (Colosseum), in which thousands of Christians were crucified and burnt for

    their faith.  It was in the circus in

    which Peter would also be crucified and proclaim his devotion to Christ

    Jesus.  The site would later be sanctified

    by the first Christian Emperor Constantine, as an area in which many Christians

    faithfully gave their lives for something greater than themselves.  He did this by beginning construction on a

    grand church, built for St. Peter and for all those Christians who were

    martyred.  Today, the original location

    of the circus is marked by an obelisk which was brought back from Egypt, during

    the Romans’ conquest of the land.  During

    the time of Nero, the circus was located on the left side of the present




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