How Lughnasadh Became Feast of Saint Peter In Chains
The month of August is widely recognized as the last of summer.
Each year, people celebrate the warmth for one more month before fall begins.
However, what was the original purpose and meaning of this month?
Lughnasadh began as an Irish Gaelic festival, marking the beginning of end of Summer. The four Gaelic seasonal festivals are Lughnasadh (August 1), and Samhain (November 1), Imbolc (February 1), and Beltane (May 1).
Each occurs on cross quarter days, which occur halfway between each solstice and equinox.
Lughnasadh was celebrated on August 1st, the day halfway between the summer solstice and fall equinox.
The feast was named after the god Lugh, the Irish High King and a noble hero of the past.
Other groups throughout ancient Europe also created similar celebrations during this period of each year.
In 8 BC, the Romans renamed the month “Sextillis” to “Augustus”, in honor of the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar.
Each following year, they celebrated the beginning of “Augustus” with a celebration honoring their great Emperor and noble hero of the past.
Augustus Caesar took control of Rome when he defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 27 BC. The Roman Senate approved a new title, naming him Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus.
He refused the title of a monarch, instead referring to himself as “Princeps Civitatis” (English: First Citizen”), also meaning first among equals.
By law, the Senate also gave Augustus a collection of powers granted to him for life, which ultimately led to absolute rule.
Augustus laid the foundation for the Roman Empire. Both “Augustus” and “Caesar” became the titles of the rulers within the Roman Empire for fourteen centuries after his death. In many languages, Caesar became the word for Emperor, as in German (“Kaiser”) and Russian (“Tsar”).
Before his death, Augustus boasted “I found a Rome of bricks, I leave to you one of marble”.
Gradually over centuries, the Roman Empire weakened but the Catholic Church continued the legacy of Rome.
On August 1st of 439 AD, Pope Sixtus III created the feast of Saint Peter in Chains (Latin: San Petri ad Vincula) and dedicated a renovated church in honor of the first Pope.
The feast of Saint Peter in Chains celebrates the events described in Acts12, when an angel visited Saint Peter in prison. Peter’s chains suddenly fell off and the angel led him out of the jail.
Each following year, Catholics celebrated and prayed to Saint Peter. Interestingly, the feast had many similarities to the celebration that was previously held for Augustus Caesar.
Like Augustus was the first Emperor of Rome, Peter is recognized as the first Pope of the Catholic Church (from the Latin “papa”, meaning “father”).
Also by law, the Church gave the Pope a collection of powers granted to him for life (including “papal infallibility”), which ultimately led to absolute rule.
The Pope also refused the title of a monarch, instead referring to himself as “servus servorum Dei” (English: “servant of the servants of God”), also meaning first among equals.
Similarly, Saint Peter laid the foundation for Europe. The Pope is referred to as the “vicarius Petri” (representative of Peter) and the absolute ruler of the Roman Catholic Church.
Rome is one of the oldest cities in Europe and recognized as the birthplace of western civilization. Throughout history, it has been seen as a symbol of power, authority, and unity through strength.
The Catholic Church is the last remaining legacy of Rome. It spread throughout Europe because it represented Rome and helped preserve the ancient traditions of the Italians, Germans, French, Spanish, Polish, and Irish.
In fact, the Irish name for the month of August is Lúnasa, in honor of the Irish High King. Many in Ireland still celebrate Lughnasadh with bonfires and dancing. They still believe in power, authority, and unity through strength.