How did Constantine convert Rome to Christianity?
The Emperor’s choice to convert the Roman Empire to the religion was a key factor in the rise of Christian culture, yet most Christians do not know how it happened.
This is a sad truth. That so many people have lost their connection to the background of their own religion has made their faith weak. I hope that this writing will strengthen yours. So, here’s how Constantine converted to Christianity:
Constantine led a faction during a Roman civil war. He struggled to defeat his rival, Maxentius, and searched for a path to victory. Constantine then saw a vision of the cross in Heaven, and angels told him to conquer on its behalf. He accepted the sign soon thereafter and converted to Christianity.
This si the account that Constantine and the historians of the early church gave regarding his conversion. Needless to say, it has been challenged by many people.
What follows is a description of some of the events surrounding Constantine’s conversion.
Roman Christianity Before Constantine
Records of the persecution of the Christians within the Roman Empire begin in 64 AD. This was when Nero blamed them for the burning of Rome.
The Christians were then sporadically mistreated during the couple hundred years. The charges set against them were most often related to their refusal to recognize pagan Gods and holidays. Their torment reached its apex during the early fourth century. From the years 303 to 311, Christians throughout the empire were tortured, killed, and imprisoned while their property was seized.
The name for this period was the Great Persecution.
The Battle of Milvian Bridge – Where Constantine Had His Vision
Some historians speculate that Constantine had converted to Christianity early in his life because it was the religion of his mother. This is a minority view, however, and he is generally believed to have converted during the Roman Civil War.
Constantine experienced his vision which urged him to convert to Christianity at The Battle of Milvian Bridge. Here, he prepared to confront his rival, Maxentius, for control of the Roman Empire.
This battle was fought because Rome was in its Tetrarchy. Control of the empire was divided between four men, each wanted to overcome the others. This forced Constantine, who had inherited leadership when his father died, into battle with Maxentius.
Now, before the battle began, Constantine claimed to have received a vision stating that he would be victorious over his rival if he had the Chi-Rho symbol (seen at the top of this page) pained on his soldiers’ shields. He followed the advice in his vision and won.
So Constantine accepted his victory as proof of Christianity being the true religion.
Meanwhile, the effect of his victory here was to secure his place as the sole leader of the Roman Empire. Some minor forces resisted him, but they were suppressed shortly afterward.
Constantine’s Reforms for Christianity
Constantine did the following on behalf of the Christians when he had secured the empire.
- He commissioned the Arch of Constantine to declare the authority of Rome’s Christian emperor.
- He gave tax-exempt status to Christian clergy
- Construction of Constantinople commenced, and its purpose was to be a new Christian Roman city which was free of pagan architectural influence
- State lands were given to the church
- Crucifixion was outlawed
- Sunday was declared to be a Christian day
- He ended gladiatorial events at the urging of church leaders
- Branding was outlawed because Christians state that man was created in the image of God, and this act twisted it
- Pagan temples slowly closed down
- And Christian leaders began to wield more legislative might.
Ecclesiastical History – Sozomen – Book II
Sozomen was a church historian who lived during the early fifth century. He lived in Palestine and spent a large amount of time learning from the nearby monastics. The man later became a lawyer and learned Greek thought.
The historian wrote two books, but only his Ecclesiastical History remains. He created this from accounts which he had drawn from other writers. The most important of his sources would have been the history written by Socrates Scholasticus. His second great influence was Saint Eusebius, who wrote his own accounts of church history as well.
Sozomen is relevant to our discussion of Constantine’s conversion because he describes the legend in its fullest version.
Chapter 3. By the Vision of the Cross, and by the Appearance of Christ, Constantine is led to embrace Christianity.— He receives Religious Instruction from our Brethren.
A sidenote from the blog’s author:
Modern readers often regard stories of visions with disdain. When they hear that someone has done something because of a vision they received from elsewhere, they disbelieve it almost reflexively.
This has not always been the case.
The attitude of modern people has been shaped by their materialistic understanding of the world. this is because of the presence and influence of empiricism, i.e., science. Science is often useful, and people accept the convenience it offers as proof of its truth.
However, science uses material means to measure material things, and it is designed in such a way so that it can only disprove things. So personal visions are always refuted by the scientific method.
But science is young. The people who lived before Francis Bacon and the other Enlightenment thinkers who created science did not adhere to it. So the ancients were more willing to accept the truth of a vision from heaven.
These stories are not un-scientific. They’re pre-scientific. They led to science and, therefore, are not science themselves.
This means that we should not reject them on the grounds that they are not scientifically true. They are part of the foundation upon which science was built. So without them, science falls away.
This is the reason why postmodernism, which rejects empiricism, arose after science had been used to refute many religious claims.
Scientists destroyed their own foundation.
End of Note
Constantine was rumored to have experienced several events which led him to convert.
We have been informed that Constantine was led to honor the Christian religion by the concurrence of several different events, particularly by the appearance of a sign from heaven.
Constantine fought a civil war within the Roman Empire. He looked to the sky for aid and saw a cross there.
When he first formed the resolution of entering into a war against Maxentius, he was beset with doubts as to the means of carrying on his military operations, and as to the quarter whence he could look for assistance. In the midst of his perplexity, he saw, in a vision, the sight of the cross shining in heaven.
Angels told Constantine to build the same cross in order to receive their aid.
He was amazed at the spectacle, but some holy angels who were standing by, exclaimed, Oh, Constantine! By this symbol, conquer! And it is said that Christ himself appeared to him, and showed him the symbol of the cross, and commanded him to construct one like it, and to retain it as his help in battle, as it would insure the victory.
Several people witnessed Constantine’s receipt of the vision.
Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, affirms that he heard the emperor declare with an oath, as the sun was on the point of inclining about the middle of the day, he and the soldiers who were with him saw in heaven the trophy of the cross composed of light, and encircled by the following words: By this sign, conquer.
Jesus appeared to Constantine and explained the meaning of his vision.
This vision met him by the way, when he was perplexed as to whither he should lead his army. While he was reflecting on what this could mean, night came; and when he fell asleep, Christ appeared with the sign which he had seen in heaven, and commanded him to construct a representation of the symbol, and to use it as his help in hostile encounters. There was nothing further to be elucidated; for the emperor clearly apprehended the necessity of serving God.
Constantine consults with the Christian leaders afterward.
At daybreak, he called together the priests of Christ, and questioned them concerning their doctrines. They opened the sacred Scriptures, and expounded the truths relative to Christ, and showed him from the prophets, how the signs which had been predicted, had been fulfilled.
The priests describe the meaning of Constantine’s vision.
The sign which had appeared to him was the symbol, they said, of the victory over hell; for Christ came among men, was stretched upon the cross, died, and returned to life the third day. On this account, they said, there was hope that at the close of the present dispensation, there would be a general resurrection of the dead, and entrance upon immortality, when those who had led a good life would receive accordingly, and those who had done evil would be punished.
Christ the Redeemer
Yet, continued they, the means of salvation and of purification from sin are provided; namely, for the uninitiated, initiation according to the canons of the church; and for the initiated, abstinence from renewed sin. But as few, even among holy men, are capable of complying with this latter condition, another method of purification is set forth, namely, repentance; for God, in his love towards man, bestows forgiveness on those who have fallen into sin, on their repentance, and the confirmation of their repentance by good works.