Relics in the Dark(ish) Ages

In 573, Georgius Florentius was on his way to Tours from Rome. He was understandably apprehensive about the trip. While Florentius was about as qualified for the job as the next prelate, his appointment had more to do with royal connections to the King of the Franks than any political savvy within the Eternal City […]

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Of Skeptics and Seekers

Ambrose’s translation was popular but also faced immediate criticism. That’s clear even from the Bishop’s own speech, which is laced with some preemptive responses for the horrible heretics in his audience. Plenty of Milanese had a classical education, many if not most still had at least one foot in another faith, whether that was Arianism […]

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Julian the Apostate

Per usual in Roman history, filicide and patricide pruned the dynastic tree until the last man standing was Constantine’s grandson Julian. At a young age this bonsai approach to power traumatized Julian. He watched his uncle Constantius execute his father and brother in cold blood before being packed off to a life in seclusion. Like […]

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The unified doctrine of Constantine

The focusing lens for the relics of Christianity has to be Helena, Constantine’s mother and the first real pilgrim. A former bartender, Constantius divorced Helena for political reasons around 293, marrying into the Tetrachy instead. At some point, maybe due to her son, she converted to Christianity. Or more likely, her faith preceded his own, […]

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The Trouble With Tetrarchies

As it happens, the downside to tetrarchies is the same as the upside. By splitting authority there were more people to do the work across smaller zones, but that also meant four opinions and centers of power instead of one. Christianity was one of these diverging points for Rome’s leadership, but another was the question […]

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The Burning of St. Polycarp

Saint Polycarp is one of the earliest[1] and most important Christian martyrs, and an early building block in both the mythmaking and relic collections associated with these figures. Probably born in 69 AD, Polycarp[2] was one of those second or third generational Christian leaders who was born early enough to plausibly know the last Apostles […]

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A Bone to Pick with Rome

Sketched into the walls of a home near Rome’s Palatine Hill is possibly the oldest known reference to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and it’s not a flattering one. It’s a crude sketch of a figure with a donkey’s head on the cross, captioned with the very middle school jab, “Alexamenos worships [his] god,”[1] Dating […]

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