Architecture: Christianity

Christianity and Arch-Lady with Cross

A monotheistic religion earlier rejected by the Ancient Romans, who’s supporters were once persecuted, had taken hold and was now sweeping throughout the empire. This religion was known as Christianity. When Christianity gained recognition in Ancient Rome, new architectural forms and buildings followed. These new designs were developed to celebrate Christianity and change Ancient Rome’s polytheistic beliefs. After Christianity was embraced by the Ancient Romans, many of the temples of the polytheistic gods were converted over to Christian churches and places of worship. For example, several of the Greek temples, Roman public buildings, and private buildings changed their architecture to accommodate and honor Christianity, rather than depict former cult and mythological gods.

The Emperor Constantine became a huge supporter of Christianity and wanted to build churches where Roman Christians could worship. The problem with typical pagan temples was that sacrifices and ceremonies mainly occurred outside of the temple, while the actual temple housed the cult, statues, and treasury. Pagan worship consisted of an openness and all-encompassing nature of all kinds of practices and gods. When Christianity was introduced throughout the empire, it was seen as a spiritual religion which needed a refreshed place of worship. The Christian religion would prove to influence architecture and change the architectural scene throughout the empire. Pagan exterior architecture traits transformed to interior Christian architecture traits that would change how the Ancient Roman world worshiped.

Whenever an Emperor came into power they left behind a legacy of building temples and monuments to embrace and celebrate events throughout their reign. Constantine wanted to ensure his church planners’ architecture had meaning to this new spiritual religion. This led to the development of Basilicas. A Basilica was a place where public gatherings were held. This included courts, financial centers, halls, and reception halls. Most Ancient Roman cities had a central Basilica and new Christian churches built in order to accommodate new believers. These Christian architectural forms were also designed to celebrate Constantine’s Church of the Holy Apostles which was built in his new capital of Constantinople. Christian worshiping centers were built in the form of the cross, replacing the traditional basilica design. Statues of the apostles, Jesus, and Mary were common in these new designs and incorporated throughout newly developed Christian architecture.



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