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Christianity- The first 400 Years (3 OF 3)
by "The Legacy"
Ital333, Prof. Barbara Nucci, March 1999

At his mother Helenaís encouragement, Constantine began to build "churches" for Christian worship which had before been held mostly in homes.  In an effort to recompense for the persecutions, he commissioned many new churches, including many pagan temples converted for Christian use(Chadwick, 128), such as San Angelo in Formis.  Whether intended or not, this resulted in the preservation of many art forms, mosaics, and architecture from previous eras that would otherwise have been lost. 


A Chronology of
Events in Italy

60,000 BC - 1300 AD

1300 AD - 1998 AD

        The confusion between paganism and Christianity grew as Constantine continued to worship the sun god and even installed statues of the sun god and mother goddess, Cybele, in the new forum at Constantinople and in many of the new churches.  Even the days of the week were named from astrological planets, and Constantine declared Sunday to be a day of rest by law in honor of the sun god.

         With the emperorís move to Constantinople and his subsequent investment of magistrate powers in the bishop of Rome, the church in Rome began to take additional authority, claiming the "right" of rule derived from the apostle Peter.  However, all sources we have found indicate there is no basis for the idea that Peter founded the church in Rome or that the bishops there carried any additional grace, wisdom, or "right" than those in other churches.   

Nevertheless, when Bishop Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius and forced him to undergo public humiliation before relenting, the power of the church over civil government, which by then included not only Rome but most of Europe and part of Africa and Asia, was firmly established. (Chadwick, 168)

         As the power of the Roman church grew, the foundation for the papacy was being laid.  Regardless of the many political and materialistic evolutions which the papacy later experienced, its powerful existence arguably ensured the survival of Christianity against the onslaught of the Muslim Turks, the invasion of the Lombards and other potential invaders. (Lintner, 58)  

         By the second century, Christian artwork was becoming prevalent. (Chadwick, 277)  Certainly the churchís encouragement of the arts, frescoes, Gregorian chants, statuary, etc., opened a vital window to the past for those of us in the future.  The manuscripts painstakingly hand-copied by monks, others sheltered and hidden,  which preserved so much knowledge through ages when so few revered it was a direct benefit of the Catholic church.   Throughout Italy, it is evident that the church has long been a rich repository of art and literature.  A tour through nearly any town in Italy today displays a wealth of history in the basilicas and cathedrals, many of which show evidence of their prior usage as pagan temples.  It is a visible legacy of Christian heritage that can be found nowhere else in the world.


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