paradigm shifting architectures of closely related imperials


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2006.04.01 10:08
Complex Iconography and Contradictory Content in Architecture
It's strange to think that the double basilica of Augusta Treverorum [Trier] (circa 326-8 AD) was the first Christian basilica of northern Europe, and for many years the largest Christian church of northern Europe as well. Little remains of the original double basilica, but two large churches are still there side by side today.
My theory as to why there were two joined basilicas, to begin with, is that they were designed to accommodate the distinct Latin and Greek populations of Augusta Treverorum. I also theorize the double basilica of Augusta Treverorum as the primogenitor of the Romanesque. Eutropia was the 'architect'.
While the Shroud of Turin is well known, the Holy Coat of Trier is much lesser known. Perhaps you know the movie The Robe, however. "The Trier tradition affirms that this relic was sent to that city by the Empress St. Helena." If this tradition is true, Helena was already dead when the Holy Coat was brought to Augusta Treverorum. It was Eutropia who executed the translation of the relic.
The head of Helena, empress and saint, is also in one the double churches at Trier.
Did Eutropia ultimately die at Augusta Treverorum? Albeit a Syrian, as a western Roman Empress herself, she certainly was no stranger to the city. It is at least known that Constantine was at Augusta Treverorum 27 September 328 and 29 December 328 while on a campaign on the Rhine. Coincidentally, the end of 328 and the beginning of 329 is exactly when coins depicting Helena Augusta stopped being issued. It has long been my contention that the Helena coins ceased once Eutropia had died.
How come architecture historians have yet to make the very direct connection between Constantine's throne hall at Augusta Treverorum (306 AD) and the first Christian basilica of Rome (312 AD)? Perhaps it is only obvious to Eutropia, Helena and Constantine and those who know them as to where the "basilican" form of the Early Christian Architecture actually came from.

Aula Palatina, Trier, c.306 AD.

2006.04.03 14:58
Re: Constantine and Christians
My general answer is that Helena and Eutropia were extremely influential over Constantine when it came to Christianity--Christianity was at that time pro women's rights. Constantine may have also had a great dislike of the more homosexually oriented Pagan cults--now there's a future irony.
Did Constantine see the embrace of Christianity as a way to "re-unify" the Empire?
I'd say that Constantine's main reason for presiding over the Arian Controversy was to establish himself as (still) head over "church" and state.

2006.04.03 15:54
Re: Constantine and Christians
Pierre-Louis, I too thought of the Donatist controversy, (as preceding the Arian controversy), but I was more thinking of that controversy revolving around whether those Christian leader who gave up the faith under the Great Persecution should be allowed back into the Church. I was not aware (or had just forgotten) about the return-of-property issue, which I find much more provocative in that after 326 Constantine began to condemn (and seize the property of, I assume) Pagan cults with homosexual orientations.
I've always been curious if being a Roman emperor automatically meant that you were the wealthiest land owner in/of the Empire as well.

2006.04.03 16:25
Re: Constantine and Christians
I'd like to mention that Krautheimer, in Corpus Basilicum Christianum Romae, offers the possibility that the Basilica Constantiniani, today's Basilica of St. John Lateran, the first Constantinian basilica of Rome, may have been started as early as November 312. If this is indeed the case, then we have Constantine giving land and a major church building to Christians, in this case the Pope, even before the Edict of Milan.

2006.04.03 17:22
Re: Constantine and Christians
Here is the Krautheimer footnote:
Construction [of the Basilica Constantiniani] need not have taken many years. The huge Basilica Nova [another building] with its time-consuming vaulting system was built and completely decorated in four or five years; and we shall see that at St. Peter's construction and interior decoration were presumably completed in the course of six to eight years. The Lateran basilica, being smaller than St. Peter's, might well have been built and finished within five or six years. Dates given for the consecration are numerous, varying from 315 to 324, but they are never based on any sources. The Martyrologium Romanum gives November 9 as the feast day of the basilica, "Romae dedicatio Basilicae Salvatoris." However, as pointed out by Lauer, the date occurs first in the second version of the Descriptio Ecclesiae Lateranensis, 1153-1154: "Cuius dedicatio per totum orbum quinto idus novembris...celebratur..." By that time, then, the tradition was well established, but we do not know how far back it went. It is certainly older than the twelfth century, but it does not occur in the early sacramentaries and martyrologia dating from the fifth to ninth century. Is it, then, the date of a reconsecration after the rebuilding by Sergius III (904-911)? This is possible, but it is equally possible that the tradition springs from a fourth century root. We leave the question open. In any event, no year is given. However, it is curious that in the reigns of Constantine and Sylvester, November 9 falls on a Sunday--since the Middle Ages the customary day for church consecrations--only four times: 312, 318, 329, 335. The last two dates can be dispensed with: the period of construction [beginning from] 313 or 314 would be too long. However, 318 would be a very plausible date for the consecration of the church. Or should we stress the choice of the word dedicatio, rather than consecratio, by the sources? Dedicatio in Roman legal language is the act of handing over or ceding--dedere--an object, be it real estate or something else, to a deity; the act of consecratio follows, once the object has been installed or the shrine, temple or whatever, has been built. Is it possible, then, that November 9, 312, not quite two weeks after his conquest of Rome, was the day Constantine ceded to Christ the terrain on which the basilica was to be built and made the endowment for its future maintenance, in servitio luminum?
I'm not sure of the date of this text, but I vaguely remember it being before World War II. I do remember, however, that the first time I read this text was November 9, 2000.

2006.04.03 17:50
Re: Constantine and Christians
Just for reference regarding the possible beginning date of the Basilica Constantiniani, according to Timothy Barnes in The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine, Constantine was at Rome 29 October 312 to January 313, and at Rome 21 July 315 to 27 September 315, and at Sirmium (in today's Serbia) 24 October 318 to 13 April 319. The only other time Constantine was at Rome was 18 July 326 to 3 August 326, and he never returned to Rome after that.

2006.04.04 12:11
Re: Constantine and Christians
Dennis, read the passages within Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book III, Chapters 54-58, demolition of the shrine at Aphaca in particular. These demolitions of pagan temples are recorded immediately following the chapters about the Christian church building projects in the Holy Land and other locations in the East. I find the (historical) juxtaposition of Constantine's creative and destructive religious activities interesting--while Christianity was beginning to be 'built', paganism was starting to be 'demolished', and seemingly starting with the more homosexually oriented cults

2006.04.04 12:15
Re: Constantine and Christians
Here's Chapter 55 of Book III of Eusebius' Life of Constantine from :
The emperor's next care was to kindle, as it were, a brilliant torch, by the light of which he directed his imperial gaze around, to see if any hidden vestiges of error might still exist. And as the keen-sighted eagle in its heavenward flight is able to descry from its lofty height the most distant objects on the earth, so did he, while residing in the imperial palace of his own fair city, discover as from a watch-tower a hidden and fatal snare of souls in the province of Phoenicia. This was a grove and temple, not situated in the midst of any city, nor in any public place, as for splendor of effect is generally the case, but apart from the beaten and frequented road, at Aphaca, on part of the summit of Mount Lebanon, and dedicated to the foul demon known by the name of Venus. It was a school of wickedness for all the votaries of impurity, and such as destroyed their bodies with effeminacy. Here men undeserving of the name forgot the dignity of their sex, and propitiated the demon by their effeminate conduct; here too unlawful commerce of women and adulterous intercourse, with other horrible and infamous practices, were perpetrated in this temple as in a place beyond the scope and restraint of law. Meantime these evils remained unchecked by the presence of any observer, since no one of fair character ventured to visit such scenes. These proceedings, however, could not escape the vigilance of our august emperor, who, having himself inspected them with characteristic forethought, and judging that such a temple was unfit for the light of heaven, gave orders that the building with its offerings should be utterly destroyed. Accordingly, in obedience to the imperial command, these engines of an impure superstition were immediately abolished, and the hand of military force was made instrumental in purging the place. And now those who had heretofore lived without restraint learned self-control through the emperor's threat of punishment, as likewise those superstitious Gentiles wise in their own conceit, who now obtained experimental proof of their own folly.

2006.04.04 12:51
Re: Constantine and Christians
It is perhaps wrong to say that Constantine was influenced by Helena and Eutropia when it came to Christianity, but there is no question that Constantine acted in tandem with Helena and Eutropia when it came to manifesting Christian churches. Helena's work is relatively well known here, but Eutropia's work is often ignored. Here is a letter from Constantine to Eusebius (as a bishop in Palestine), which Eusebius includes within the Life of Constantine after recording the death of Helena:
VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS, to Macarius, and the rest of the bishops in Palestine.
One benefit, and that of no ordinary importance, has been conferred on us by my truly pious mother-in-law, in that she has made known to us by letter that abandoned folly of impious men which has hitherto escaped detection by you: so that the criminal conduct thus overlooked may now through our means obtain fitting correction and remedy, necessary though tardy. For surely it is a grave impiety indeed, that holy places should be defiled by the stain of unhallowed impurities. What then is this, dearest brethren, which, though it has eluded your sagacity, she of whom I speak was impelled by a pious sense of duty to disclose?
That the Saviour appeared in this Place to Abraham. She assures me, then, that the place which takes its name from the oak of Mambre, where we find that Abraham dwelt, is defiled by certain of the slaves of superstition in every possible way. She declares that idols which should be utterly destroyed have been erected on the site of that tree; that an altar is near the spot; and that impure sacrifices are continually performed. Now since it is evident that these practices are equally inconsistent with the character of our times, and unworthy the sanctity of the place itself, I wish your Gravities to be informed that the illustrious Count Acacius, our friend, has received instructions by letter from me, to the effect that every idol which shall be found in the place above-mentioned shall immediately be consigned to the flames; that the altar be utterly demolished; and that if any one, after this our mandate, shall be guilty of impiety of any kind in this place, he shall be visited with condign punishment. The place itself we have directed to be adorned with an unpolluted structure, I mean a church; in order that it may become a fitting place of assembly for holy men. Meantime, should any breach of these our commands occur, it should be made known to our clemency without the least delay by letters from you, that we may direct the person detected to be dealt with, as a transgressor of the law, in the severest manner.
For you are not ignorant that the Supreme God first appeared to Abraham, and conversed with him, in that place. There it was that the observance of the Divine law first began; there first the Saviour himself, with the two angels, vouchsafed to Abraham a manifestation of his presence; there God first appeared to men; there he gave promise to Abraham concerning his future seed, and straightway fulfilled that promise; there he foretold that he should be the father of a multitude of nations.
For these reasons, it seems to me right that this place should not only be kept pure through your diligence from all defilement, but restored also to its pristine sanctity; that nothing hereafter may be done there except the performance of fitting service to him who is the Almighty God, and our Saviour, and Lord of all. And this service it is incumbent on you to care for with due attention, if your Gravities be willing (and of this I feel confident) to gratify my wishes, which are especially interested in the worship of God. May he preserve you, beloved brethren!"
[These passages are from and thus from an older translation.]
I think it is clearly implied that Constantine sooner trusts Eutropia than the Christian bishops, and, moreover, Eutropia provided Constantine with a further occasion to demonstrate his superiority over the bishops. What is unfortunate is that modern scholars cannot accept that Eutropia was still alive and still on good terms with Constantine after the deaths of Helena and (of course) Fausta.
I've said it here before, and I'll say it again: a lot of the conundrums of Helena cleared up once I stopped ignoring Eutropia.
To me, Constantine was a soldier first, a politician second and a Christian third. Helena, I see, as a great historical player, a great survivor and a great doer. And, I see Eutropia, because of her long Imperial life and vast experiences, as the person closest to Constantine who knew 'everything'--she knew the Empire and its many places and how it all worked (literally and symbolically), and she probably knew who owned what.



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