Friday, May 16, 2008

Constantine and the Catholic Church

As Constantine rode victorious into the city, Maxentius’s head, raised on spear point, followed him – a trophy for the conqueror, a warning to rivals, a target for the spit of the Roman mob, and something more than all this. For Constantine gave no thanks to the Roman gods. If Maxentius was their champion, here was his head.

Triumphant Constantine, Augustus Maximus of the empire, was about to inaugurate a revolution in the history of the world. Shortly after his victory, Constantine and his fellow Augustus, Licinius, met in Milan to discuss imperial problems. Constantine’s priority was a guarantee of religious freedom, which became known as the Edict of Milan. It is the first legal affirmation of religious liberty, issued more than 1,400 years before a similar idea would be promulgated in America. But what is equally interesting about the Edict of Milan is that it mentions only one specific religion – Christianity – and it is mentioned repeatedly…..

The Edict of Milan, issued by two professing pagans, was the first royal proclamation in a series that would establish Catholic Christianity as the religion of empire, an empire of which it remains the living embodiment, from a beginning that stretches before all time. (H.W. Crocker III)

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