The Paradigm-Shifting Architectures of Closely Related Imperials


0040     Circus of Gaius and Nero     8202

0135     Circus of Hadrian     8203
0135     Mausoleum of Hadrian     8204
0199     De Spectaculis    8205

0221     palatium Sessorianum     8206
0222     Circus Varianus     8207

0300     Palace of Diocletian     8209
0300     Porta Nigra     8212
0302     Baths of Diocletian     8215
0307     Temple of Venus and Rom     8218
0308     Basilica of Maxentius/Constantine     8221
0309     Mausoleum of Romulus/Villa of Maxentius     8224
0309     Circus of Maxentius     8227

0310     Basilika Palastaula     8230
0310     Baths of Constantine     8233
0312     Basilica Constantiniana     8236
0313     Arch of Janus Quadrifrons     8239
0313     Thermae Helenae     8242
0314     Basilica Santa Agnese     8245
0314     Basilica Santes Marcellino et Pietro
              Mausoleum of Constantine
0314     Basilica of St. Lawrence     8251
0314     Basilica of St. Sebastian     8254
0315     Arch of Constantine     8257
0315     Baths of Constantine     8260
0319     San Pietro in Vaticano     8263
0325     Church of the Holy Sepulchre     8266
0325     Church of the Nativity     8269
0325     Church on the Mount of Olive     8272
0326     Santa Croce in Gerusalemme     8275
0327     Trier Cathedral     8278
0327     Basilica at Mamre     8281

0330     Constantinople     8284

0349     Mausoleum of Constantina     8287

0363     Temple of Jerusalem     8290
0364     Scala Santa     8292

0380     Basilica of St. Paul     8294

0390     Cathedral of Ravenna     8296

0425     churches of Galla Placidia Augusta     8298

The second edition of QUAESTIO ABSTRUSA is subtitled "The Paradigm Shifting Architectures of Closely Related Imperials" and focuses on the architectures manifested throughout the Roman Empire from the reign of Diocletian through to the reign of Julian. This period from 284 AD to 363 AD encompasses the Constantinian dynasty of rulers, which began with Constantius I, the western Caesar of Diocletian's tetrarchy and the father of Constantine I (the Great), and ended with Julian (the Apostate), who was one of Constantius I's grandsons, the son of one of Constantine I's half brothers, and the husband of Constantine I's youngest daughter. The name of Constantine I's youngest daughter was Helena, and the name of Constantius I's youngest daughter was Eutropia, and both of these imperial daughters were named for their respective grandmothers, who were essentially the matriarchs of the Constantinian dynasty of both rulers and builders.

The elder Eutropia was the wife of Maximian, the western Augustus who co-ruled the Empire with Diocletian. Eutropia had three children, the eldest, Theodora, was from a previous marriage, while Maxentius and Fausta were fathered by Maximian. Theodora became the second wife of Constantius I, Maxentius became the usurpative Augustus of Italy and North Africa, and Fausta became the second wife of Constantine I. Interestingly, Eutropia's blood line is the most consistent throughout the Constantinian dynasty since she is Julian (the Apostate's) oldest direct imperial relation.

The elder Helena was the first wife of Constantius I, and the mother of Constantine I. Helena, who was not of aristocratic birth, was divorced from Constantius I when he was raised to the rank of western Caesar and in the process married the imperial daughter Theodora. In time, however, Helena herself was raised to the rank of Augusta during the reign of her son Constantine I. Ultimately, Helana was further raised to the rank of Christian saint.

Despite intricate familial relations--Eutropia became the mother-in-law to both Constantius I and Constantine I (father and son), and Eutropia's daughter Theodora is the main reason for Helena's divorce--and bloody inter-familial power struggles--Eutropia's husband and son, Maximian and Maxentius respectively, both died due to the rise in power of Helena's son, Constantine I--both women lived to be octogenarians within the imperial household, and indeed appear to have bonded in their mutual devotion to the task of establishing a new imperial Christian architecture. Imperially sanctioned Christian building began in Rome under the rule of Constantine I as early as November 312, and in the Vita Constantini, the Life of Constantine written by the bishop Eusebius during the end of Constantine I's lifetime, we learn that both Helena and Eutropia were actively tending to holy sites in Palestine in the mid-320s. Helena is credited with building the first Christian basilicas at the sites of Christ's Nativity and Ascension, while Eutropia is responsible for the restoration of the holy site at Mamre (today's Hebron), where an angel of God first appeared to Abraham. Thus, in turn, it is the architectural activity of Helena and Eutropia that positions the very center of the "paradigm shifting architectures of closely related imperials."

The architectures of the Roman Empire executed from the reign of Diocletian through to the reign of Julian come to represent the extraordinary transition of a Pagan architecture into a Christian architecture. That this enormous transformation occurred within the rule of one family only further compounds the large scale historicity of the event. Both the Constantinian dynasty and the architecture it produced present a gigantic puzzle with many diverse pieces, some of which fit nicely together, some of which fit strangely together, and some of which are missing entirely. The last piece of the puzzle is also no doubt the most ironic. Julian (the Apostate), who reigned as emperor from 361 to 363, renounced his Christianity and briefly revived imperial Paganism. Moreover, Julian is the last ruler in history to attempt a rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

2013.10.28 18:59
28 October
28 October 306: the Senate and the Praetorian Guard in Rome proclaim Maxentius as emperor princeps.
It could easily be said that the architecture of Rome (the city) under Maxentius represents the last flourish of genuine Classical in its true pagan milieu.

left: The Circus of Hadrian and the Mausoleum of Hadrian (135 AD), after Piranesi.
right: The Circus of Maxentius and the Mausoleum of Romulus (son of Maxentius) (c. 310 AD), on the Appian Way.
Both complexes, displayed here at the same scale with true north up, comprise the 'classic' Roman funereal paradigm of tomb, circus and dining hall, facilitating the "munus", a death rite, where death games and feasts accompanied the funeral day.
28 October 312: Maxentius offers battle with Constantine outside the gates of Rome near the Milvian Bridge. Maxentius suffers total defeat, himself drowning in the Tiber.
It is at this point that the architecture of Rome (the city) begins to represent a pagan/Christian hybrid, with stylistic influence coming from the North (Treves Augustum [today's Trier, Germany]), Constantine's Imperial capital, and from the East (Nicomedia [today's Izmet, Turkey]), the Roman Empire's power center since c. 280 AD.

left: The Circus of Maxentius and the Mausoleum of Romulus (son of Maxentius) (c. 310 AD), on the Appian Way.
center: The 'basilica' of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus (c. 314 AD) and the Mausoleum of Helena (mother of Constantine) (326 AD).
right: The 'basilica' of St. Agnes (c. 314 AD) and the Mausoleum of Constantina (daughter of Constantine) (c. 345 AD).
The three complexes, displayed here at the same scale with true north up, demonstrate how the tombs remained more or less the same, i.e., substantial round, domed structures, but the pagan funereal circus has morphed into a circus-shaped covered graveyard where feasts were held on the respective saint's death ('feast') day.

It is on record that the yearly commemorative feasts of saintly death days quickly evolved into quite exorbitant, if not all out drunken, several-day-long affairs, thus, by the beginning of the fifth century, Rome's somewhat unique circus-shaped basilica/graveyards were deemed inappropriate for 'church' architecture, closely coinciding with (St.) Augustine's writing of The City of God Against the Pagans.



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