Emergence of Christianity Transformed Roman Architectural Elements

Christianity might have appeared to be just another of the numerous Hellenistic religion in Rome. The choice of architectural style must also have caused considerable discussion. It was impossible for the new religious architecture to follow in the footsteps of temple architecture. In early Christian architecture, when house churches were no longer needed, this trend accelerated as various forms were studied and reevaluated for their compatibility with developing liturgical needs. The imperial forums were abandoned, temples were chopped down for building materials, and walls were added between columns to transform temples into churches. The liquidation of sculptures was so complete that not a single example has survived.

To add to the complexity of the times, when Constantine left Rome in 326 CE and formally dedicated Constantinople as the “new Rome” in 330 CE, the city of Rome became a backwater almost overnight. Though the city of Rome was no longer a political or economic power, it became an important religious and pilgrimage center much like Jerusalem, for it had the burial places of St. Peter, St. Paul, and other martyrs. In making their tombs an important part of veneration, the notions of a dark and uneventful Hades, and the idea of death as a privileged realm of pharaonic afterlife, were obliterated. Tombs were perceived as a site of reawakening on the day of the Last Judgment, when all of humanity was to be judged.


The precedent for this type of veneration can be found in Buddhism, which, around the 1st century BCE, had already begun reliquary practices certainly an innovation in the history of religion. This folk practice, which apparently arose spontaneously, was soon recognized as a boon by the Church establishment, as it attracted the pious, and as such was a public demonstration of Christianity’s validity. Indeed, the new notion of history made by simple people doing heroic things far different from history as mythology or history as royal lineage would have a profound impact on later developments.


A broad flight of stairs led to the atrium, built on a vast platform over the column. In Christian architecture the baptistery or baptistery is the separate centrally planned structure surrounding the baptismal font.. St Babylas was the first victim of it. St. Babylas was composed of four aisle-less arms with timber roofs converging on the center square. Christianity forced it to build A baptistery was built against one of the side arms and a sacristy against the other. They challenged the architectural form of the basilica, which was in its Roman days a structure without side rooms.

Constantinian shift is a term used by nontrinitarian Christians, to describe the political and theological aspects of Constantine’s integration of the imperial government with the church. In Rome, St. Stefano Rotondo embodies a complex intersection of cross and rotunda. Commonly named Santo Stefano Rotondo, dedicated to both Saint Stephen, the Christian first martyr, and Stephen I, the sanctified first king of Hungary who imposed Christianity on his subjects. St. Stefano notwithstanding, the Roman churches tended to be the most conservative. St. Sabina and Santa Maria Maggiore preserved the Constantinian tradition of a colonnaded basilica.