The Establishment of an Imperial Church
from "The Orthodox Church"
by Timothy Ware
Order from
The Orthodox Church
by Timothy Ware / Paperback / Published 1993

The Orthodox Church Constantine stands at a watershed in the history of the Church. With his conversion, the age of the martyrs and the persecutions drew to an end, and the Church fo the Catacombs became the Church of the Empire. The first great effect of Constantine's vision was the so-called 'Edict' of Milan, which he and his fellow Emperor Licinius issued in 313, proclaiming the official toleration of the Christian faith. And though at first Constantine granted no more than toleration, he soon made it clear that he intended to favour Christianity above all the other torelated religions in the Roman Empire. Theodosius, within fifty years of Constantine's death, had carried this policy through to it conclusion: by his legislation he made Christianity not merely the most highly favoured but the only recognized religion of the Empire. The Church was now established. 'You are not allowed to exist,' the Roman authorities had once said to the Christinas. Now it was the turn of paganism to be suppressed.

Constantine's vision of the Cross led also, in his lifetime, to two further consequences, equally momentous for the later development of Christendom. First, in 324 he decided to move the capital of the Roman Empire eastward from Italy to the shores of the Bosphorus. Here, on the site of the Greek city of Byzantium, he build a new capital, which he named after himself, 'Constantinoupolis'. The motives for this move were in part economic and political, but they were also religious: the Old Rome was too deeply stained with pagan associations to form the centre of the Christian Empire which he had in mind. In the New Rome things were to be different" after the solemn inauguration of the city in 330, he laid down that at Constantinople no pagan rites should ever be performed. Constantine's new capital has exercised a decisive influence upon the development of Orthodox history.

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