Constantine the Great and Christianity Galerius , who had previously been one of the leading figures in persecution, in issued an edict which ended the Diocletian persecution of Christianity. He was then succeeded by an emperor with distinctively pro Christian leanings, Constantine the Great. After winning the battle, Constantine was able to claim the emperorship in the West. How much Christianity Constantine adopted at this point is difficult to discern.
The Roman coins minted up to eight years subsequent to the battle still bore the images of Roman gods. After his victory, Constantine supported the Church financially, built various basilicas, granted privileges e.
It had overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls, and had no pagan temples. Constantine also played an active role in the leadership of the Church. In , he acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the Donatist controversy.
More significantly, in he summoned the Council of Nicaea , the first Ecumenical Council. Constantine thus established a precedent for the emperor as responsible to God for the spiritual health of their subjects, and thus with a duty to maintain orthodoxy. The emperor was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity. He began reopening pagan temples and, intent on re-establishing the prestige of the old pagan beliefs, he modified them to resemble Christian traditions such as the episcopal structure and public charity previously unknown in Roman paganism.
Julian's short reign ended when he died while campaigning in the East. Some of these fathers, such as John Chrysostom and Athanasius , suffered exile, persecution, or martyrdom from Arian Byzantine Emperors. Many of their writings are translated into English in the compilations of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Arianism and the first Ecumenical Councils[ edit ] Further information: Germanic Christianity A popular doctrine of the 4th century was Arianism , the denial of the divinity of Christ, as propounded by Arius.
Though this doctrine was condemned as heresy and eventually eliminated by the Roman Church it remained popular underground for some time. In the late 4th century Ulfilas , a Roman bishop and an Arian, was appointed as the first bishop to the Goths , the Germanic peoples in much of Europe at the borders of and within the Empire.
Ulfilas spread Arian Christianity among the Goths firmly establishing the faith among many of the Germanic tribes, thus helping to keep them culturally distinct.
They were mostly concerned with Christological disputes. Christianity as Roman state religion [ edit ] An Eastern Roman mosaic showing a basilica with towers, mounted with Christian crosses , 5th century AD, Louvre On 27 February , with the Edict of Thessalonica put forth under Theodosius I , the Roman Empire officially adopted Trinitarian Christianity as its state religion.
After its establishment, the Church adopted the same organisational boundaries as the Empire: The bishops, who were located in major urban centres as per pre-legalisation tradition, thus oversaw each diocese. The bishop's location was his "seat", or "see". Among the sees, five came to hold special eminence: Rome , Constantinople , Jerusalem , Antioch , and Alexandria.
The prestige of most of these sees depended in part on their apostolic founders, from whom the bishops were therefore the spiritual successors. Though the bishop of Rome was still held to be the First among equals , Constantinople was second in precedence as the new capital of the empire. Theodosius I decreed that others not believing in the preserved "faithful tradition", such as the Trinity, were to be considered to be practitioners of illegal heresy ,  and in , this resulted in the first case of capital punishment of a heretic, namely Priscillian.
During the early 5th century the School of Edessa had taught a Christological perspective stating that Christ's divine and human nature were distinct persons. A particular consequence of this perspective was that Mary could not be properly called the mother of God, but could only be considered the mother of Christ. The most widely known proponent of this viewpoint was the Patriarch of Constantinople Nestorius. Since referring to Mary as the mother of God had become popular in many parts of the Church this became a divisive issue.
The councils ultimately rejected Nestorius' view. Many churches who followed the Nestorian viewpoint broke away from the Roman Church, causing a major schism. The Nestorian churches were persecuted and many followers fled to the Sasanian Empire where they were accepted. The Sasanian Persian Empire had many Christian converts early in its history tied closely to the Syriac branch of Christianity.
The Empire was officially Zoroastrian and maintained a strict adherence to this faith in part to distinguish itself from the religion of the Roman Empire originally the pagan Roman religion and then Christianity. Christianity became tolerated in the Sasanian Empire and as the Roman Empire increasingly exiled heretics during the 4th and 6th centuries, the Sasanian Christian community grew rapidly. This church evolved into what is today known as the Church of the East.
Oriental Orthodoxy In the Council of Chalcedon was held to further clarify the Christological issues surrounding Nestorianism.
The council ultimately stated that Christ's divine and human nature were separate but both part of a single entity, a viewpoint rejected by many churches who called themselves miaphysites.
The resulting schism created a communion of churches, including the Armenian, Syrian, and Egyptian churches. Christian monasticism Monasticism is a form of asceticism whereby one renounces worldly pursuits and goes off alone as a hermit or joins a tightly organized community.
It began early in the Church as a family of similar traditions, modelled upon Scriptural examples and ideals, and with roots in certain strands of Judaism. John the Baptist is seen as an archetypical monk, and monasticism was also inspired by the organisation of the Apostolic community as recorded in Acts 2. Eremetic monks, or hermits , live in solitude, whereas cenobitics live in communities, generally in a monastery , under a rule or code of practice and are governed by an abbot.
Originally, all Christian monks were hermits, following the example of Anthony the Great. However, the need for some form of organised spiritual guidance lead Pachomius in to organise his many followers in what was to become the first monastery. Soon, similar institutions were established throughout the Egyptian desert as well as the rest of the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
Women were especially attracted to the movement. Christianity in the 6th century , Christianity in the 7th century , and Christianity in the 8th century The transition into the Middle Ages was a gradual and localised process. Rural areas rose as power centres whilst urban areas declined. Although a greater number of Christians remained in the East Greek areas , important developments were underway in the West Latin areas and each took on distinctive shapes.
The Bishops of Rome , the Popes, were forced to adapt to drastically changing circumstances. Maintaining only nominal allegiance to the Emperor, they were forced to negotiate balances with the "barbarian rulers" of the former Roman provinces. In the East the Church maintained its structure and character and evolved more slowly. Western missionary expansion[ edit ] The stepwise loss of Western Roman Empire dominance, replaced with foederati and Germanic kingdoms, coincided with early missionary efforts into areas not controlled by the collapsing empire.
Prominent missionaries were Saints Patrick , Columba and Columbanus. The Anglo-Saxon tribes that invaded southern Britain some time after the Roman abandonment, were initially pagan, but converted to Christianity by Augustine of Canterbury on the mission of Pope Gregory the Great.
Soon becoming a missionary centre, missionaries such as Wilfrid , Willibrord.