Milan's prominent place in the History of Early Christianity (part 1 of 3) - The Edict of Milan, changed the history of Christianity and Europe forever, written in the capital of the Western Roman Empire, by the eventual first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great

We have previously seen that Mediolanum (Milan) was made capital of the Western Roman Empire in 286 AD. As Milan continued in this role, and as Christianity continued to grow throughout Roman territories almost 300 years after the death of Jesus Christ, the most important historical change to official Roman policy towards Christians was created here in Milan - and hence it has since been forever known as the Edict of Milan.

When Diocletian in the East (who chose Mediolanum, later to become Milan, to be the capital of the Western Roman Empire) and his co-emperor, Maximian in the West, chose both to abdicate in 305 AD in favour of their chosen successors, turmoil and battles soon developed among the successors as well as with other leaders in the empire who wanted more power and territory.

The next rising star among Roman leaders was Constantine, son of one of the recently deceased chosen Caesars. In 312 AD, he crossed the Alps from his stronghold in Gaul and seized Italy from Maxentius.

Constantine sees a vision of the Chi-Rho symbol of Christ before conquering Rome, as it ensures victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge - in a painting by Rubens
Constantine the Great, before his conversion to Christianity, has his first heavenly vision of the sacred Chi-Rho symbol of Christ. His acceptance of this symbol, to be used for his army, ensured his victory the next day at the battle of Milvian Bridge over the Tiber - key to his successful conquest of the city of Rome one more day after the battle, and his path to gaining the place of Emperor. Image Credit: painting by Rubens from Wikipedia

On his conquering way south to Rome, before the Battle of Milvian Bridge across the Tiber, Constantine is said to have been visited by a vision of a symbol of Jesus Christ: "Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol (the Chi-Rho), and thereafter they were victorious." The next day after victory on that battlefield, Constantine entered Rome.

map location pin of the Milan ruins of the Roman Emperor's Palace where Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan - on an interactive map of Milan
"Ruins of the Emperor's palace in Milan. Here Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan." (Mediolanum in Wikipedia). Location pin in Milan for the few remains of the Palace of the Roman Emperor when Mediolanum was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, on the interactive Milanfinally Google Map of Milan.
Upon pacifying Italy, and seen as a landmark in the history of Christianity, an Edict was drafted in Milan in 313 AD - now known by all as the Edict of Milan - by the Emperor Constantine the Great, that accepted the place of Christianity within the Roman Empire and ordered that confiscated property be returned to them. Emperor Constantine is considered a champion of Christianity and the first Christian ruler of the Roman Empire - officially baptized on his deathbed.

Emperor Constantine with the Edict of Milan, illustrated from a bronze door of the Duomo di Milano cathedral
Emperor Constantine depicted with the Edict of Milan. Illustration of sculptured detail originally by 20th century Italian sculptor, Arrigo Minerbi, adorning the bronze door of the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral). More info, see Liceoberchet.gov.it. Image Credit: IPZS.it

photo of visitor at bronze door of Duomo di Milano cathedral showing Emperors Constantine on left and Licinius on right, co-authors of the Edict of Milan
There it is on the bronze door of Milan Cathedral, just above the middle of the door: on the left is the seated Emperor Constantine of the West, on the right is the seated co-Emperor Licinius of the East, also co-author of the Edict of Milan, with some words from the Edict engraved on the rectangular sections. Image Credit: Bianca Cadore


But even before this world changing Edict, Milan had featured in the most ancient developments and progress of the Christian religion.





Read more - Article series on Milan's prominent place in the History of Early Christianity:

Part 1 of 3 (article in this post) - The Edict of Milan changed the history of Christianity and Europe forever, written in the capital of the Western Roman Empire 313 AD, by the eventual first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great

Part 2 of 3St Barnabas, Apostle from Jerusalem, brought Christianity to Milan as the first Bishop of Milan, just a few decades after the death of Jesus - and left his mark on an ancient pagan Celtic stone: Milan's Tredesin de Mars

Part 3 of 3The First Christians in Milan Martyred Under Nero's Rule, just decades after the crucifixion of Jesus: a whole family of four, and one old man with a boy

(Click for ALL articles on Milan history)



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