Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Erika Manders: Imperial foundations of the Christian Church: the building of imperial churches and the notion of agency in the fourth century AD

In his Vita Constantini (3.30-32), Eusebius records a letter of the emperor Constantine to Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem. This letter informs us not only about the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in particular, but also, by describing the role of the different actors in the creation of a Christian cult place linked to the emperor, about the building of ‘imperial churches' in general. In this paper, the concept ‘imperial church' will be examined and the notion of agency regarding the construction of these churches will be investigated. The focus lies on imperial churches built in Rome, Constantinople, other imperial residence cities, and in the Holy Land in the fourth century AD, when the bishops emerged on the worldly stage of power. With the help of literary as well as archaeological evidence the following questions will be answered:
1. Which Christian cult places can be considered imperial churches and why?
2. Which roles did central authorities (the emperor) and local authorities (e.g. provincial governors, bishops) play in the building of imperial churches?
Through mapping the extent to which different actors influenced the construction of imperial churches, I hope to provide more insights into the positions of power of different types of leaders and into the role of church building in their legitimization strategies.

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