October 28: in this sign you will conquer

2012/10/28 § Leave a comment

On this day in 312 Constantine had a vision.

It was the night before Constantine’s battle against Maxentius for control of Rome, a clash that is known for its location on and around a bridge over the Tiber River.  As he dreamed, Constantine was visited by other-worldly power that showed him the sign of Christ (the Chi Rho), and communicated the simple message: in this sign you will conquer.

The Battle of the Milvian Bridge was decisive in catapulting Constantine into leadership of the Empire.  Constantine eventually ended the Tetrarchy, under which four people had somehow shared rule of portions of the Empire.  He knit it back together as a proper, single Empire.  As its emperor, he commenced typical emperorish activities, including ordering the construction of buildings–big basilicas, fancy triumphal arches.

But of greater consequence, and in response to the legendary success he enjoyed at the Milvian Bridge, Constantine legalized Christianity and subsequently embarked on a huge campaign to build in service to the Christian church.  A slew of monuments and churches in the Holy Land and throughout the Empire were directed by Constantine and his family; he began the most significant program of church construction anywhere.  In short, the vision was the first step in public architecture for public use, inaugurating one of the most important developments in architectural history the world over.

Image: another source records that Constantine first saw The Sign in the daytime, in the brightness of the sun.  Bernini drew it and then made a monument that stands at the Vatican (from this source)

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You are currently reading October 28: in this sign you will conquer at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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