Constantine – First Christian Emperor of Rome (285-337 CE)

In 312 CE Constantine was about to lead his army in a battle that would change the world. The soldiers of his enemy Maxentius faced him at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome. The winner would become the Roman Emperor.

Constantine was a pagan who worshipped the sun, and he was worried about the coming battle. He says he started to pray to the “Supreme God” for help.

Constantine

. The soldiers of his enemy Maxentius faced him at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome. The winner would become the Roman Emperor.

Constantine was a pagan who worshipped the sun, and he was worried about the coming battle. He says he started to pray to the “Supreme God” for help.

Head of a statue of Constantine
Photograph by Mike Strange
chi rho sign
There was a sign in the sky “above the sun” and with it the words “conquer by this”. That night in a dream he said he saw Jesus telling him to use the chi-rho sign “as a safeguard in all battles”. Constantine ordered it to be put on his soldier’s shields – and won the battle. The symbol is made of the first two letters of ‘Christ’ in Greek – chi (X) and rho (P) .
The chi-rho sign
Silver pendant or amulet with punched monogram cross (chi rho) found in a grave at Shepton Mallet. It is a rare example of a late Roman Christian artefact.
Photograph © Somerset Museums Service
amulet
The victory was celebrated by building a new triumphal arch in Rome. Although most people were still pagans, Christianity became the favoured religion of the Roman Empire.
Constantine Arch
The Constantine Arch in Rome
Photograph by Su Strange
the baptistry at St. Giovani
Things did not all change straight away. Constantine was taught about being a Christian, but he could still be ruthless and he did not get baptised until his old age. Coins kept pictures of the old Roman Gods and Constantine’s new church in Rome (San Giovani) was built on the edge of the city to avoid upsetting the pagans. Constantine, and his mother Helena, built great churches in the Holy Land to mark the places where Jesus was born, taught and was buried.

The Christian church asked for Constantine’s help when there were problems. He called a meeting of Christian bishops at Nicaea in 325 that decided what a Christian was, and what Christians should believe.

The baptistry at St. Giovani,
built by Constantine
go to one faith
Go to ‘Basics – One Faith’
Constantine also moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople – now Istanbul in modern Turkey.
Most of the Roman Emperors that came after Constantine were Christians. Under them Christianity became the official religion instead of the old Roman religion that had worshipped many Gods.

In time even the great Roman temples, like the Pantheon in Rome, came to be used as churches. The buildings and church services became very grand to mark Christianity’s power and importance.

Pantheon
The Pantheon in Rome

http://www.request.org.uk/main/history/romans/constantine.htm

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2 thoughts on “Constantine – First Christian Emperor of Rome (285-337 CE)

  1. Pingback: Who built Rome’s Historic Pantheon? | Vino Con Vista Italy Travel Guides and Events

  2. Pingback: The Donation of Constantine – a medieval forgery « The Templar Knight

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