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 […]Read more "Relics in the Dark(ish) Ages"
If the Western Empire was in the grips of the Last Days by the 5th Century, the Eastern Roman Empire carried on the Imperial Tradition. Or put another way, the Byzantine Empire struggled along in spite of plagues, earthquakes, invasions from Avars, Bulgars, Sassanids, and Arabs, all atop more dynastic struggles than one could shake […]Read more "Byzantine Rituals, Byzantine Relics"
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 […]Read more "Of Skeptics and Seekers"
If Julian’s reign brought a hard clash between saint and Apollo, then the 370’s brought the saints into doctrinal disputes and Christian politics thanks to Bishop Ambrose of Milan. Ambrose was a political animal who came to the Church late and with no background in religious study. After a hasty post appointment baptism in 374, […]Read more "St. Ambrose and the Translation of Milan"
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 […]Read more "Julian the Apostate"
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, […]Read more "The unified doctrine of Constantine"
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 […]Read more "The Trouble With Tetrarchies"
While there were periodic flareups of persecution in the 2nd Centuries, attacks on Christians became more common in the Crises of the 3rd Century. The string of dynastic good luck ended with the 235 assassination of Alexander Severus, and the Roman Empire came dangerously close to total collapse. Outbreaks of plague, climate change, foreign invasion, […]Read more "Crises, Christianity, and the Great Persecution"
Saint Polycarp is one of the earliest 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 was one of those second or third generational Christian leaders who was born early enough to plausibly know the last Apostles […]Read more "The Burning of St. Polycarp"
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,” Dating […]Read more "A Bone to Pick with Rome"