contributing sperm for egg fertilization
This contribution was going to be a short piece written as a male "donation" to The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice. I was going to feature Constantina, the daughter of Constantine (the Great) as the first architect of sacred Christian sites. I don't know if I can do this now because I may have gotten my facts messed up with regard to Constantina being instrumental in building S. Agnes (outside the Walls). I read somewhere that it was her project, and because of that I've surmised this whole scenario where it was she, and not her Emperor father, who was behind the initial Christian building within Rome.
I was set to tell the Constantina story and the St. Agnes (martyrdom) story, and I was going to play up the whole reversal (inversion) motif. I particularly liked entertaining the notion that Constantina constructed her own practice. It was all going to make a tremendous story, but right now I don't even know where I read about Constantina's connection with the St. Agnes Church.
I may still have something here, but I doubt it will be as big a flash as I originally thought.
I was even going to dedicate the text to Francesca Hughes (editor of The Architect) and all the woman (architect) authors within The Architect, and in so doing clear up the seemingly universal Immaculate Conception misunderstanding once and for all.
aesthetics of war design
...discovering that the first master architect of Christianity was a woman.
good (friday) hint
The woman who fulfilled the 'practice' of Christianity's first master architect is the same woman credited with discovering the "True Cross."
better (good friday) hint
The woman who was the first master architect of Christianity was also the grandmother of the second master architect of Christianity (who was also a woman!)
the saintly patronessing of woman architects
In an almost defeatist search [yesterday] to see if I could find out more as to whether Constantina, the daughter of Constantine, could be considered the true architect of early Christian churches, I quickly, through the Internet, checked up on all the links I have seen in the recent past. I was particularly interested in confirming the role of Constantina regarding the initial building over the tomb of St. Agnes. In the process, I actually found St. Helena, Constantine the Great's mother and Constantina's grandmother. It was actually St. Helena that began the early Christian church building campaign, most notable in Palestine itself.
Finding St. Helena as architect is a satisfying discovery, and the more confounding because I "found" Helena on Holy Thursday, and hence began to write about her on Good Friday, which is extremely and uncannily significant because St. Helena is most known for discovering the True Cross(!). Best of all, Helena's story is chock full of many relevant issues pertaining to woman in design and building.
Serbia circa 272 AD
Oddly enough, the woman who fulfilled the role of Christianity's first master architect, gave birth to her only child in Serbia circa 272 AD.
Unless someone else reveals the identity of this remarkable woman beforehand, my next post will be this woman architect's name.
Serbia circa 272 AD
The name of the woman who fulfilled the role of Christianity's first master architect has not yet been posted. I've been indisposed since the weekend and haven't been able to get to my work.
I will post the name soon, but meanwhile, here's another hint:
One of the four great piers holding up the dome of St. Peter's Rome is dedicated to this woman.
I recently purchased The Architect: reconstructing her practice. I was happy to read your writing therein, and the book in general has inspired me to research and write about the woman I believe to be Christianity's first master architect. This late 3rd, early 4th century woman, whose name I will soon disclose at www.quondam.com, is indeed a figure in history, however, she is known for Christian issues other than the extremely strong possibility that she was instrumental in designing and building Christianity's first basilica building boom. My [initial] research is fairly complete at this point, and I am now in the process of forming the final text via web pages.
In the interest of intellectual quizzing, I'm offering you several hints as to this woman's identity. Perhaps you already know who I'm speaking of, but I assume that no one else has yet to investigate this woman in terms of her actually having an architectural "practice".
1. she is the woman credited with the (legendary?) discovery of the True Cross.
2. she is the grandmother of the Christianity's second master architect, who is also a woman.
3. she gave birth to her only child, a son, in Serbia circa 272 AD.
4. one of the great piers holding up the dome of St. Peter's Rome is dedicated to this woman.
The Saintly Patronessing of Women Architects: Reconstructing the Practice of Flavia Julia Helena Augusta
Would the history of architecture significantly transform after acknowledging that the first master architect of Christianity was a woman?
Does it indeed matter whether Christianity's initial monuments were the design and plan of a woman?
Is there even a woman in history that could fulfill such a high and powerful role?
The simple answer to all three of the above questions is a resounding yes.
Yes, the history of architecture would significantly transform if the first master architect of Christianity was a woman because such an acknowledgment would profoundly effect architecture's entire future.
Yes, it does indeed matter if Christianity's first monuments were planned and designed by a woman because architectural history has yet to ascribed such a dominant position to a woman, and, moreover, the presence of a leading woman architect within the context of early Christianity only compounds the implications of origin with regard to such a pivotal point in not only architectural history, but in all history.
Yes, the woman in history that could fulfill the role of Christianity's first master architect is Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, the mother and empress dowager to Constantine the Great, otherwise know as Saint Helena.
Re: msst ... er
I am using the title master architect as a neuter phenomenon, e.i., the architect that processes a overriding total vision, the architect the leads other (subordinate) architects. Helena pocessed that vision and leadership.
You also state (seriously) that man or woman as architect should be judged only the merits of there resulting works. I agree, but I don't see how your comment bears on what I've written of Helena so far, and besides, Helena's work is no doubt among the very best architecture of faith ever erected.
Btw, today, 21 April, is Rome's birthday, and it just so happens that Piranesi's "reenactment" of the founding of Rome in the Campo Mario also relates to the Helena as master Christian architect story. I'm busy trying to put all these pieces together for web upload later today or early tomorrow, so check for updates at tsPOWa soon.
21 April 1999 (Rome's birthday)
The path that ultimately lead me to Helena began with my learning about a deliberate connection between Piranesi's Ichnographiam Campi Martii and Saint Agnes of Rome. According to ancient tradition, the first "structure" within the Campus Martius was an altar erected by Romulus in honor of his father Mars. Piranesi situates the Ara Martis within the generally accepted location of the original altar, that is, within the area between the present day Piazza Navona and the Tiber to the west. In Piranesi's plan, the altar of Mars is within a circular pool in front of a Temple of Mars and is furthermore surrounded by an extensively curvilinear porticus. Additionally, the Domus Alexandri Severus (1) flanked by two Sessorium (2) is to the west.
Investigating the meaning of Piranesi's Ara Martis layout, I looked to Nolli's 1748 Plan of Rome for a possible connection. I chose this approach because I had already learned that Piranesi indeed sometimes cleverly disguised links between his Ichnographiam and Nolli's plan. The only potential tie between the two maps at the Ara Martis juncture is the coinciding position of the Templum Martis and the baroque church of St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona. At this point it became necessary for me to investigate the story of Saint Agnes.
Saint Agnes died in Rome circa 249 as a thirteen year old virgin and martyr. "Her riches and beauty excited the young noblemen of the first families of Rome to contend as rivals for her hand. Agnes answered them all that she had consecrated her virginity to a heavenly husband, who could not be beheld by mortal eyes. Her suitors, finding her resolution unshakable, accused her to the governor as a Christian, not doubting that threats and torments would prove more effective with one of her tender years on whom allurements could make no impression."1 As a form of torture, Agnes was sent to a brothel where her vow of virginity would be threatened and almost certainly eradicated. According to the legend, however, an angel protected Agnes while she was in the brothel, and subsequently Agnes was put to death. The traditional location of the brothel of Agnes' torture is the site of St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona. Moreover, the subsequent execution of Agnes sent shockwaves throughout both pagan and Christian Rome because the worst possible thing any Roman could do was to kill a virgin. Suddenly, and ironically, the Roman persecution of Christians took on the guise of a pagan moral dilemma.
The martyrdom of Agnes signifies a pivotal point of pagan-Christian inversion, and this inversion is precisely what Piranesi delineates within the complex of the Ara Martis. First, the co-positioning of the Templum Martis and the church of St. Agnes represents the origin of Rome itself when Mars raped the Vestal Virgin Rhea, who subsequently became mother to Romulus and Remus. Second, the emperor Alexander Severus is known for having been very interested and sympathetic towards Christianity, to the point where he seriously considered proclaiming Jesus as one of the official Roman gods as well as carving the (inverting) words "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" over the door of his house. Third, Sessorium is a direct reference to the Palatium Sessorianum, the imperial estate that became Helena's residence in Rome after 312, and soon thereafter the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It seems quite evident that Piranesi was well aware of early Christian history, including its architectural history.
Personally, I wonder whether Piranesi recognized Helena as an architect as well.
1 Herbert Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater, editors, "St Agnes" in Butler's Lives of the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1956), v. 1, pp. 133-4.
...it is at Trier that Helena resided between the years 306 and 312. the Roman architectural structures and remains presently in Trier are primarily from precisely Helena's time there. I am not proposing that Helena was the architect of these buildings (although who knows), however, they are much more than likely the buildings that (first?) inspired Helena's architectural sensibilities.
21 April - Rome's birthday
21 April is the traditional birthday of Rome, and, believe it or not, there is actually a connection between the origin of Rome, Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius, and St. Helena.
For without delay she dedicated two churches to the God whom she adored, one at the grotto which had been the scene of the Saviour's birth; the other on the mount of his ascension. For he who was "God with us" had submitted to be born even in a cave of the earth, and the place of his nativity was called Bethlehem by the Hebrews. Accordingly the pious empress honored with rare memorials the scene of her travail who bore this heavenly child, and beautified the sacred cave with all possible splendor. The emperor himself soon after testified his reverence for the spot by princely offerings, and added to his mother's magnificence by costly presents of silver and gold, and embroidered hangings. And farther, the mother of the emperor raised a stately structure on the Mount of Olives also, in memory of his ascent to heaven who is the Saviour of mankind, erecting a sacred church and temple on the very summit of the mount. And indeed authentic history informs us that in this very cave the Saviour imparted his secret revelations to his disciples. And here also the emperor testified his reverence for the King of kings, by diverse and costly offerings. Thus did Helena Augusta, the pious mother of a pious emperor, erect over the two mystic caverns these two noble and beautiful monuments of devotion, worthy of everlasting remembrance, to the honor of God her Saviour, and as proofs of her holy zeal, receiving from her son the aid of his imperial power.
These words come from the third book of the Vita Constantini, the life of Constantine written shortly after Constantine's death by Eusebius, the bishop of Caesarea. Helena made her holy and imperial "pilgrimage" to Palestine and the eastern provinces between the years 326 and 328, and Eusebius is the only contemporary author to record her journey. Of course, Eusebius does not name Helena as architect of the Nativity and Ascension churches, but his text nonetheless links Helena directly with the erection of these two buildings. Moreover, the two holy sites chosen by Helena, that where Christ came into this world and that where Christ left this world, signify a well designed intention.
Even without naming Helena as architect, the testimony of Eusebius is powerfully valuable for its rare attribution of monumental building construction to a woman.