In the evening, on the way home after having shaved my brother O., I decide to go the Borders Bookstore in Chestnut Hill. I purchased several books, including The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice.
contributing sperm for egg fertilization
This contribution was going to be a short piece written as a male "donation" to The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice. I was going to feature Constantina, the daughter of Constantine (the Great) as the first architect of sacred Christian sites. I don't know if I can do this now because I may have gotten my facts messed up with regard to Constantina being instrumental in building S. Agnes (outside the Walls). I read somewhere that it was her project, and because of that I've surmised this whole scenario where it was she, and not her Emperor father, who was behind the initial Christian building within Rome.
I was set to tell the Constantina story and the St. Agnes (martyrdom) story, and I was going to play up the whole reversal (inversion) motif. I particularly liked entertaining the notion that Constantina constructed her own practice. It was all going to make a tremendous story, but right now I don't even know where I read about Constantina's connection with the St. Agnes Church.
I may still have something here, but I doubt it will be as big a flash as I originally thought.
I was even going to dedicate the text to Francesca Hughes (editor of The Architect) and all the woman (architect) authors within The Architect, and in so doing clear up the seemingly universal Immaculate Conception misunderstanding once and for all.
1999.04.01 Holy Thursday
a recollection of the day's events.1
My day began with an early morning Internet search of St. Agnes. I specifically wanted to locate a previously found Internet reference that attributed the original (early Christian) building of the St. Agnese basilica in Rome to Constantina, Constantine the Great's daughter. I found the St. Agnes-Constanti(n)a reference, however, during the search process I also accidentally found St. Helena, the mother of Constantine and the grandmother of Constantina. My "discovery" of Helena occurred while reading The Catholic Encyclopedia's online entry on Constantine, where there is a hyperlink to St. Helena. Seeing that Constantine's mother is a proclaimed saint naturally sparked my curiosity. The St. Helena hyperlink connects to The Catholic Encyclopedia's online entry on St. Helena herself, and it was there that I found out that it was not Constantina who was behind all the early Christian church building but rather Helena: Tradition links her name with the building of Christian churches in the cities of the West, where the imperial court resided, notably at Rome and Trier, and there is no reason for rejecting this tradition, for we know positively through Eusebius that Helena erected churches on the hallowed spots of Palestine. Despite her advanced age she undertook a journey to Palestine when Constantine, through his victory over Licinius, had become sole master of the Roman Empire, subsequently, therefore, to the year 324. It was in Palestine, as we learn from Eusebius, that she had resolved to bring to God, the King of kings, the homage and tribute of her devotion. She lavished on that land her bounties and good deeds, she "explored it with remarkable discernment", and "visited it with the care and solicitude of the emperor himself". Then, when she "had shown due veneration to the footsteps of the Saviour", she had two churches erected for the worship of God: one was raised in Bethlehem near the Grotto of the Nativity, the other on the Mount of the Ascension, near Jerusalem. Suddenly, and most unexpectedly, my (re)search turned from St. Agnes and Constantina towards St. Helena. Admittedly, I did not immediately comprehend that Helena was indeed that "builder" of the first Christian churches for which I searched, yet, within an hour of further research, I realized that Helena may well be the first master architect of Christianity.
1999.04.01 Holy Thursday
a recollection of the day's events.2
In the afternoon, I pursued my (re)search of Helena at Temple University's Paley Library. Specifically, I looked up books on Constantine and early Christian architecture, and I also photocopied the entry on Helena within Bulter's Lives of the Saints. I borrowed two books on Constantine, and one book on early Christian architecture (but not the Krautheimer book on early Christian architecture that I had hoped to find).
I mentioned that it was All Fool's Day to the librarian that charged my books. He responded by inquisitively wondering how such traditions began.
1999.04.01 Holy Thursday
a recollection of the day's events.3
Instead of going directly home after leaving Paley Library, I decided to make a short detour in order to look at Philadelphia's St. Helena's Church, which is within the northwest section of my own neighborhood of Olney. I turned off the Roosevelt Boulevard onto 5th Street, which is Olney's "Main Street." St. Helena's is on 5th Street about two miles north of Roosevelt Boulevard. Driving along 5th Street I first passed by the Church of the Incarnation, and, ultimately, St. Helena's high roof came into view. Being a lifetime resident of Olney, I have passed by St. Helena's Church many times, yet this time I saw the church in a whole new light. The style of the church is best described as Early Christian Modern, and whoever designed the Church either designed it with Helena in mind or was guided by Helena herself. Suddenly, a building I had known for years became a very significant work of architecture.
On driving home, it occurred to me that Olney's third Roman Catholic church, St. Ambrose, which is my church, now holds a heretofore unrecognized connection with St. Helena's--St. Ambrose is the first person to credit Helena in writing with the discovery of the True Cross.
1999.04.01 Holy Thursday
a recollection of the day's events.4
In reviewing my library material at home, I found references to still more writings that relate Helena's story. The footnote of the St. Helena entry in Bulter's Lives of the Saints cites Eusebius' Life of Constantine as the primary Helena source, and it also cautiously refers to Evelyn Waugh's novel Helena (1950) as a text of biographical fiction. I knew that Eusebius' Life of Constantine is available online, but I had not yet read it. As for Waugh's Helena, I had no prior knowledge of the book, and I was thus anxious to read it, particularly to find out if Waugh had already rendered Helena as an architect.
1999.04.01 Holy Thursday
a recollection of the day's events.5
In the late afternoon, I put aside my research to go and visit R., my mother, and O., my schizophrenic brother. For several years now I routinely shaving O.'s beard because he had begun to cut himself severely when he shaved himself. The visit went well, and all seemed normal when I left.
On the way home I stopped at Temple University's Tyler Art Library because I knew contained a large edition of Krautheimer's Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture. I photocopied chapter two and then proceeded home, where I was looking forward to begin reading all the information I compiled during the day.
Around eight o'clock that night I received a distressing phone call from my mother, who told that my brother was very upset and crying, saying that he needed help and that he wanted to be taken to the hospital. I asked if I could talk with O. over he phone, and indeed O. was very upset. I told him that I would come right over, and that provided O. some relief. O. has been schizophrenic since 1976, and I had witnessed many of O.'s outbursts over the ensuing years. This panicky anxiety attack, however, was an entirely new manifestation of O.'s disease. Moreover, since 1995, when O. began taking a new medication that works well for him, his life over the last four years has been virtually normal.
Upon arriving at my mother's and brother's home, I reassured O. that we will do whatever is necessary to make him feel better, and I asked if he can tell me what brought on this sudden anxiety. O. was unable to give any cohesive answer, except to say that he needed help. O. wanted to go to EPPI, Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. O. had been to EPPI many times before, however, I told him that EPPI no longer accepted cases from his part of the city, and that we would have to go the Friend's Hospital instead. On hearing that, O. said we did not have to go to the hospital, but he did want me to stay with him.
As O. paced throughout the house, going back and forth from his room to the bathroom to the kitchen, I sat in the living room with our mother. Both my mother and I were perplexed over my brother's new condition, although my mother did say that a few times within the preceding month O. experienced small instances of anxiety that quickly subsided after a few minutes of comfort from our mother. Being Holy Thursday, I made a glib remark about this whole event being a fine Last Supper. I also told my mother that is was then five years since my close friend and fellow architect David Schmitt died--1 April 1994 also happened to be Good Friday.
Within the two hours of my stay, I helped O. make his tea, I rubbed his back, I responded quickly to several frantic summons only to find that O. just wanted me to stand near by, I assisted O. as he took his bath, and, while he lay in bed trying to finally relax, he called me twice and asked that I sit on the side of his bed for about ten minutes each time. Ultimately, O. said he felt better, that he would stay in bed, and that it was all right for me to go home.
Even though most of the events that evening are hard for me to forget, it was the times when O. asked to sit on the side of his bed while he lay there that were the most memorable. While sitting there, all O. did was watch me intently. I have no idea what may have been going through his mind, and, to be honest, I was mostly wondering how long I was going to have to sit there.
Re: aesthetics of war design
Is there some kind of 'architectural romanticism' regarding ruins (of war or the passing of centuries), such that the English Gardens with Follies may actually reveal the psyche of the architect?
Are you asking this question regarding Follies because it's All Fool's Day?
I had a very eclectic day, did everything from being my brother's bath valet for the first time to discovering that the first master architect of Christianity was a woman. I have a lot to metabolize, so I'll post in a day
1999.04.01 Holy Thursday
a recollection of the day's events.6
Lying in bed, pondering all the varied events of the day, it suddenly occurred to me that the evening's episode with O., especially the two times he asked me to sit on the side of his bed, was an odd schizophrenic yet chronologically correct reenactment of the Agony in the Garden.
And they came to a country place called Gethsemani, and he said to his disciples, "Sit down here, while I pray." And he took with him Peter and James and John, and he began to feel dread and to be exceedingly troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is sad, even unto death. Wait here and watch." And going forward a little, he fell on the ground, and began to pray that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him; and he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee. Remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou willst."
Then he came and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, "Simon, dost thou sleep? Couldst thou not watch one hour? Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak." And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words over. And he came again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And they did not know what answer to make to him.
1999.04.02 Good Friday
the saintly patronessing of woman architects
In an almost defeatist search to see if I could find out more as to whether Constantina, the daughter of Constantine, could be considered the true architect of early Christian churches, I quickly through the Internet checked up on all the links I have seen in the recent past. I was particularly interested in confirming the role of Constantina regarding the initial building over the tomb of St. Agnes. In the process, I actually found St. Helena, Constantine the Great's mother and Constantina's grandmother. It was actually St. Helena that began the early Christian church building campaign, most notable in Palestine itself.
Finding St. Helena as architect is no doubt one of my most satisfying discoveries, and the more confounding because I "found" Helena on Holy Thursday, and hence began to write about her on Good Friday, which is extremely and uncannily significant because St. Helena is most known for discovering the True Cross(!). Best of all, Helena's story is choke full of so many relevant issues pertaining to woman in design and building.
I am going to begin relating this narrative (hypothesis) within schizophrenia + architectures because of the (holy uncanny!) coincidence that the picture of O. in 0003.htm is a picture I took of O. in 1975 as he posed outside St. Helena's Church in Olney, Philadelphia. The St. Helena connection was there from the beginning and I had no idea--but I certainly have an idea now! I'm hoping to generate a large number of pages through this narrative, and it would be wonderful devoting all April to the relating of this story.
1999.04.02 Good Friday
recollection of the day's events.1
Early in the morning, I took O. to an appointment with his primary care physician. This was a previously scheduled appointment, and was not set up on account of O.'s panic attack the previous evening. O.'s doctor seemed just a baffled at O.'s episode as I and my mother were.
Later in the morning I went back to Temple University's Paley Library to borrow Waugh's Helena: A Novel, and after finishing at Paley Library I drove up North Broad Street to Temple University's Tyler Art Library to photocopy the notes to Krautheimer's Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture's chapter two.
By the time I am finished at the Tyler Art Library it was already mid-afternoon, and on the way home I decided to first stop at St. Ambrose Church to do the Stations of the Cross. I arrived at the church just after a Spanish language Good Friday Service. The church was almost entirely empty, but I knew I had enough time to do the Stations before the church was closed up. I'm not sure why, but the Stations of the Cross are no longer performed ritually at St. Ambrose on Good Friday, and even I had not done them in many years. As I began, I was surprised that the name of each Station came back to me, and I could not help but think of St. Helena and her finding of the Cross.
As I proceeded, I noticed that two women ahead of me were also doing the Stations. Eventually I caught up with them, and we did the last four Stations together. They were an elderly mother and a middle-aged daughter, and they recited the prayers of the Stations aloud in Spanish, the mother reciting the first half and the daughter responding. They know the whole ritual by heart, and, by their actions, they reminded me that one kneels during certain of the last Stations. When we finished, we simply nodded to each other with a smile and left taking our separate ways.
1999.04.02 Good Friday
recollection of the day's events.2
At home, I spoke on the telephone with PR, a close friend but not an architect. P is the first person I told about my "discovery" of Helena as architect. As our conversation developed, it became evident that the whole Helena story touches upon a wide range of contemporary women's issues.
good (friday) hint
The woman who fulfilled the 'practice' of Christianity's first master architect is the same woman credited with discovering the "True Cross"
1999.04.02 Good Friday
recollection of the day's events.3
Having over an hour's worth of time before going to a cocktail party that evening, I began reading Waugh's Helena. The book seemed promising since Waugh initially makes a connection between St. Helena, Helena of Troy, and hence archeology--the discovery of Troy and the discovery of the True Cross.
better (good friday) hint
The woman who was the first master architect of Christianity was also the grandmother of the second master architect of Christianity (who was also a woman!) [sic]
1999.04.02 Good Friday
recollection of the day's events.4
I have been friends with MS since the mid-1990s when I owned and operated an art gallery called Venue. The guests of M's cocktail party comprised his friend's, work associates from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and some artists. To my surprise, three of the party guests were also artists that once exhibited at Venue -- MS, JS, and MD. I had not seen any of these women since the gallery closed September 1994. I told Jennie and Maryann about my recent "discovery" of St. Helena "the architect", and I was pleased by their enthusiastic response. Apparently women artists find it very easy relating to Helena's story.
1999.04.03 Holy Saturday
recollection of the day's events
I read Waugh's Helena throughout most of the day, and actually finished the novel by the end of the day.
Serbia circa 272 AD
Oddly enough, the woman who fulfilled the role of Christianity's first master architect, gave birth to her only child in Serbia circa 272 AD.
Unless someone else reveals the identity of this remarkable woman beforehand, my next post will be this woman architect's name.
Re: Serbia circa 272 AD
I will post the name soon, but meanwhile, here's another hint:
One of the four great piers holding up the dome of St. Peter's Rome is dedicated to this woman.
Thanks for informing me re: the status of the Inside Density paper selection process.
I recently purchased The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice. I was happy to read your writing therein, and the book in general has inspired me to research and write about the woman I believe to be Christianity's first master architect. This late 3rd, early 4th century woman, whose name I will soon disclose at Quondam, is indeed a figure in history, however, she is known for Christian issues other than the extremely strong possibility that she was instrumental in designing and supervising Christianity's first basilica building boom. My research is fairly complete at this point, and I am now in the process of forming the final text via web pages.
In the interest of intellectual quizzing, I'm offering you several hints as to this woman's identity. Perhaps you already know who I'm speaking of, but I assume that no one else has yet to investigate this woman in terms of her actually having an architectural "practice".
1. She is the woman credited with the (legendary?) discovery of the True Cross.
2. She is the grandmother of the Christianity's second master architect, who is also a woman.
3. She gave birth to her only child, a son, in Serbia circa 272 AD.
4. One of the great piers holding up the dome of St. Peter's Rome is dedicated to this woman.
I'd be most pleased to hear if you have any idea of whom I am referring to.
All the best,
The Saintly Patronessing of Women Architects: Reconstructing the Practice of Flavia Julia Helena Augusta
Would the history of architecture significantly transform after acknowledging that the first master architect of Christianity was a woman?
Does it indeed matter whether Christianity's initial monuments were the design and plan of a woman?
Is there even a woman in history that could fulfill such a high and powerful role?
The simple answer to all three of the above questions is a resounding yes.
Yes, the history of architecture would significantly transform if the first master architect of Christianity was a woman because such an acknowledgement would profoundly effect architecture's entire future.
Yes, it does indeed matter if Christianity's first monuments were planned and designed by a woman because architectural history has yet to ascribed such a dominant position to a woman, and, moreover, the presence of a leading woman architect within the context of early Christianity only compounds the implications of origin with regard to such a pivotal point in not only architectural history, but in all history.
Yes, the woman in history that could fulfill the role of Christianity's first master architect is Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, the mother and empress dowager to Constantine the Great, otherwise know as Saint Helena.
Re: msst ... er
I am using the title master architect as a neuter phenomenon, e.i., the architect that processes a overriding total vision, the architect that leads other (subordinate) architects. Helena processed that vision and leadership.
21 April - Rome's birthday
21 April is the traditional birthday of Rome, and, believe it or not, there is actually a connection between the origin of Rome, Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius, and St. Helena.
21 April 1999 (Rome's birthday)
The path that ultimately lead me to Helena began with my learning about a deliberate connection between Piranesi's Ichnographiam Campi Martii and Saint Agnes of Rome. According to ancient tradition, the first "structure" within the Campus Martius was an altar erected by Romulus in honor of his father Mars. Piranesi situates the Ara Martis within the generally accepted location of the original altar, that is, within the area between the present day Piazza Navona and the Tiber to the west. In Piranesi's plan, the altar of Mars is within a circular pool in front of a Temple of Mars and is furthermore surrounded by an extensively curvilinear porticus. Additionally, the Domus Alexandri Severus (1) flanked by two Sessorium (2) is to the west.
Investigating the meaning of Piranesi's Ara Martis layout, I looked to Nolli's 1748 Plan of Rome for a possible connection. I chose this approach because I had already learned that Piranesi indeed sometimes cleverly disguised links between his Ichnographiam and Nolli's plan. The only potential tie between the two maps at the Ara Martis juncture is the coinciding position of the Templum Martis and the baroque church of St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona. At this point it became necessary for me to investigate the story of Saint Agnes.
Saint Agnes died in Rome circa 249 as a thirteen year old virgin and martyr. "Her riches and beauty excited the young noblemen of the first families of Rome to contend as rivals for her hand. Agnes answered them all that she had consecrated her virginity to a heavenly husband, who could not be beheld by mortal eyes. Her suitors, finding her resolution unshakable, accused her to the governor as a Christian, not doubting that threats and torments would prove more effective with one of her tender years on whom allurements could make no impression."1 As a form of torture, Agnes was sent to a brothel where her vow of virginity would be threatened and almost certainly eradicated. According to the legend, however, an angel protected Agnes while she was in the brothel, and subsequently Agnes was put to death. The traditional location of the brothel of Agnes' torture is the site of St. Agnes on the Piazza Navona. Moreover, the subsequent execution of Agnes sent shockwaves throughout both pagan and Christian Rome because the worst possible thing any Roman could do was to kill a virgin. Suddenly, and ironically, the Roman persecution of Christians took on the guise of a pagan moral dilemma.
The martyrdom of Agnes signifies a pivotal point of pagan-Christian inversion, and this inversion is precisely what Piranesi delineates within the complex of the Ara Martis. First, the co-positioning of the Templum Martis and the church of St. Agnes represents the origin of Rome itself when Mars raped the Vestal Virgin Rhea, who subsequently became mother to Romulus and Remus. Second, the emperor Alexander Severus is known for having been very interested and sympathetic towards Christianity, to the point where he seriously considered proclaiming Jesus as one of the official Roman gods as well as carving the (inverting) words "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" over the door of his house. Third, Sessorium is a direct reference to the Palatium Sessorianum, the imperial estate that became Helena's residence in Rome after 312, and soon thereafter the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. It seems quite evident that Piranesi was well aware of early Christian history, including its architectural history.
Personally, I wonder whether Piranesi recognized Helena as an architect as well.
1 Herbert Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater, editors, "St Agnes" in Butler's Lives of the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1956), v. 1, pp. 133-4.
architectural agendas - crossed archaeology
Is archaeology the handmaiden, or handyman of architecture?
As it happens, today, May 3, is the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, and St. Helena (the recently proclaimed first master architect of Christianity) is the person attributed with having found the Holy Cross--a very interesting (and saintly) combination of archaeology and architecture.
recollection of the day's events
In perfoming a web search on emperor Maximian, a surprising number of links to saints turned. It appears that maximian is responsible for a great many Christian martyrdoms, for example, St. Maurice, St. Ursus, St. Dimitrius, St. Panteleimon, the 20,000 martyrs of Nicomedia, St. Hesychios the Senator.
Without his knowing it, Helena may have been Maximian's greatest nemesis.
recollection of the day's events
I went to the University of Pennsylvania's Van Pelt Library to photocopy sections of Stephan Borgehammer's How the Holy Cross was Found. Borgehammer presents a convincing case for dating Helena's journey to Palestine two years earlier than the traditionally accepted 326 date. If Helena was not in Palestine in 326, then it is possible that she was in Trier at that time, specifically after the execution of her grandson Crispus, who, although killed at Pola, resided with his wife at Trier. It was in 326 at Trier that the royal palace of either the Empress Helena or that of Crispus and his wife Helena was torn down prior to the erection of a double basilica.
front page of The Olney Times
Olney firefighter dies after injuries on duty
Hundreds of firefighters, police officiers, law enforcement and safty officials face the casket bearing the body of Eric Casiano of Olney following his funeral Mass at St. Helena's Church
The Philadelphia Fire Department said it is with deep regret that Fire Commissioner harold B. Hairston announces the on duty death of Olney firefighter Eric Casiano, 41, a seven-year veteran, assigned to Engine Company 2 located at 2426 N. Second Street.
At approximately 6:19 a.m. on May 3, [the feast of the Finding of the True Cross], Casiano was found in the station with no vital signs and taken to Episcopal Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:08 a.m. Just prior to his collapse Casiano faught a dwelling fire in the 2200 block of N/ Orianna Street. The occupant of that home was saved, the fire was extinguished and all of the firefighters were back in quarters by 5:50 a.m. Less that 30 minutes later the bells sounded for another alarm but Casiano could not answer.
Casiano died of internal bleeding after his spine was injured during the fire.
Mr Casiano and his wife Nancy James Casiano, were both 16 when they married. He also is survived by daughters Lydia Frasca and Maria; his parents, Julio Sr. and Lydia Casiano; two other brothers; and two grandchildren.
A viewing was held May 6 at St. Helena's Church, 6161 N. Fifth Street. A Funeral Mass was celebrated Friday. Burial was private.
The Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol's motorcycles are lined up outside St. Helena's, awaiting the funeral procession.
I thought you would like to know about The Saintly Patronessing of Women Architects: Reconstructing the Practice of Flavia Julia Helena Augusta. This is a work-in-progress project proporting the notion that Helena was the first master architect of Christianity. I have lately become familiar (April 9, 1999) with your work regarding Helena Augusta, and it has helped me a great deal, however, I have only read the history section of your book so far.
I imagine you will find my work regarding Helena as architect somewhat strange and unprecedented, yet I also imagine that you will likewise realize that Helena is indeed "legendary" in so many respects. Essentially, my "hypothesis" is largely based on the architectural similarity of all the early Constantinian Christian basilica/churches in both Rome and Palestine (and perhaps even Trier and Salona), and then combining this architectural similarity with the fact that Helena was present when each these structures begun construction. There are also some "spiritual" coincidences within my own recent life that lead me to have "faith" in my hypothesis, and these are being gradually disclosed in the "neo-legend" section of The Saintly Patronessing... .
I have just yesterday become acquinted with Borgehammer's work, and I actually find his thesis and dating as to Helena's Palestine trip most intriguing--Borgehammer's earlier dating of Helena's "pilgrimage" actually solves many of the intricacies within my own (building) dating sequence.
In any case, I hope you find the time and interest to follow my project as it comes together over the next few months (proposed finish date is August 18, of course). I will greatly appeciate any of your comments or suggestions.
Director, Quondam - A Virtual Museum of Architecture
May 21st - the Agonalia
Agonalia - a festival in honor of Janus celebrated in Rome on the 9th of January and the 21st of May.
Janus is my favorite Roman god.
Janus - an old Italian deity. He was represented with a face on the front and another on the back of his head. The month of January was sacred to him, as were all other beginnings. The myth makes him a king of Latium or Etruria, where he hospitably received Saturn when expelled by Jupiter from Crete. He had a small temple in the Forum, with two doors opposite to each other, which in time of war stood open and in time of peace were shut; the temple was trice closed on this account. With reference to his temple, the
deity was called Janus geminus or Janus Quirinus.
In its over 800 year history, Rome was at peace only three times?
I like Janus because he can see in front of him and he can see behind him--into the future and into the past? Also, I like to wonder whether Janus was "two faced" or was he schizophrenic?
Within his large plan of the Campo Marzio, Piranesi applies the label "Circus Agonalis sive Alexandri" to the original Circus of Domitian which is today Rome's Piazza Navona. Albeit obscure information, Piranesi was indeed correct in his designation because the emperor Alexander Severus rebuilt the Circus of Domitian and renamed it in honor of Janus. It is fun to imagine all the big goings-on over 1700 years ago today within what is now the Piazza Navona.
Another monument in honor of Janus that still stands in Rome today is the Arch of Janus Quadrifrons, which is in the Forum Boarium. It is one of those unique four-way arches, and, according to Banister Fletcher, is "of poor design." What is most interesting about this arch, however, is that it was constructed under Constantine the Great AFTER he converted to Christianity. I believe this signifies two important facts. First, the aristocratic and pagan population of Rome still had tremendous influence and power. Second, whoever designed this arch was extremely clever in that Janus, precisely because of his "two faced" nature, was the perfect god to reflect Constantine's own political position -- exactly because of his conversion from paganism to Christianity, Constantine himself is Rome's ultimate Janus-like emperor. [Personally, I can't help but believe that it was Constantine's mother Helena (that most saintly of architects) that thought all this poignant symbolism through.] And, in an almost too good to be true sense, the Arch of Janus may well have predicted (looked towards) European architecture's next 1200 years: Banister Fletcher notes "it has a simple cross-vault with embedded brick box-ribs at the groins, affording a further instance of the progressive character of Roman construction techniques: such ribs are possibly the prototypes of Gothic rib vaults." [Fletcher is being a little two faced himself here -- first the Arch of Janus is not good design, and then the arch is progressive construction!] Could it really be that the
first ribbed cross-vaults ever were built in late antiquity? Do these vaults, built by ancient Rome's first Christian emperor, unwittingly and uncannily prophesies a whole new future era of Western architecture? [And is it possible that Helena, besides being the first master architect of Christianity, is also the world's proto-Gothic architect?]
Constantine converted to Christianity the night before the Battle at the Milvian Bridge (October 28, 312) which lead into the City of Rome. He saw a vision of the (Christ) Cross in the sky, and hence ordered his troops to paint the (Christ) Cross on their shields. Constantine was victorious over the usurpative emperor Maxentius, and on October 29 entered Rome in triumph. Constantine's mother, St. Helena, is most known for having discovered the True Cross in Jerusalem (most recently dated c. 324-25). If you asked me, I'd say the "signs" surrounding this incredible mother-son team are still appearing.
As odd as it sounds, only after sending the initial Agonalia post did two things occur to me:
1. The space created by the plan of the four-way Arch of Janus essentially forms a cross.
2. Only Helena is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, and her feast is celebrated the 18th of August. The Greek Orthodox Church, on the other hand (or is it other face?), honors both Helena and Constantine as saints, and they share a combined feast day, which happens to be today, May 21st.
Re: the Agonalia
Tom raises one of the (religious) ambiguities that may always surrounded Constantine. I have read some reference to the popular worship of Mithra (spelling? - an eastern sun cult I believe) during Constantine's time. For example, while Constantine was one of the junior emporers ruling from Trier over Gaul, Britian and Spain, the overall political crises engendered by the usurpative Maxentius in Rome brought together the retired emperors of Diocletian, Maximian (Maxentius' father) and Galarius (eastern Augustus) for a meeting near Vienna. There is some existent inscription relating to that meeting suggesting that offerings to Mithra were made. I don't think that Constantine was at that meeting, however.
My feeling is that both Constantine and Helena were very interested in Chistianity, and perhaps believers, before Constantine's vision in 312. If they were, however, they had to keep it very much to themselves. The retired emperor Maximian, who resided within Constantine's court in Trier (c. 308-311) was an ardent persecutor of the Christians while he co-reigned with Diocletian. One has to look carefully at Constantine's early political position as emperor to see that it was precarious, and professing even a tolerance of Christianity before his position became stable might well have been political, if not literal suicide.
Personally, the more I research this particular history, the more facinating it becomes. For example, check out the uncanny family relations between Constantine and Maximian, and you will realize that none of the Constantine-Helena story is easy.
Constantine "practiced" Christianity as of 312, but was not baptized until a few days before his death in 337. Constantine's remaining an unbaptized Christian for most of his life is precisely the issue that raises all the ambiguity surrounding his "faith".
It is truly a strange coincidence that not only did O., in his writings, sometimes refer to Athanasius "as an author name," but also that I recently chose just such a text (picked at random) for inclusion with my last letter to Dollacker. Then today, I came across Anthanasius' name in one of the books that I also today borrowed from the library. I quickly realized that I have seen this name (involved with the Helena-Constantine story) before, and I vaguely recalled that he was exiled to Trier. I honestly did not recognize the name when I chose (and typed) O.'s text. In any case, it is indeed odd that O. should have written about Athanasius in the first place--that is the most incredible part of this story--and secondly that the name should now reappear in schizophrenia + architectures.
I now seriously wonder if all this is a sign, indeed a very important sign (and even a frightening sign). When I drove to Chestnut Hill, last Wednesday night passing St. Helena's in Olney [and sometime in 2006 I learned that St. Athenasius Parish is the next parish directly west of St. Helena's], I began to cry because I almost can't believe how incredible the journey and discoveries of this year have been. My spontaneous tears came because I am now feel close to these ancient people, at least that is what seems the most real aspect of all this. I have spontaneously cried a few times since Wednesday night, and that too makes me wonder if I'm on the verge of something even I do not expect.
This evening I read about Athanasius in Butler's The Lives of the Saints, and, besides his most interesting life, his most notable written work is on the Incarnation. Of course, I immediately thought of Incarnation of Our Lord church here in Olney. That association now completes the "Olney trilogy" that I've mentioned [in my notes] before. Now everything is even more tied together, and it shows that I am on the right track all along.
I don't want this note to just end, therefore I will go to express the wanderings that my mind undertook as I wrote this note so far. I seriously wondered why is all these Helena associations here in Olney? Why am I still here in Olney? Is Olney really a holy place? Is it because of Rising Sun and Tabor [which I believe was previously a Native American solstice gathering site]? I'm kind of convinced that all the signs are here, all of them. Is it really true that the land on which Olney is now built is indeed one of the holy places of this planet? I just spontaneously cried again.
And then I thought of reenactment, of how the three Catholic churches of Olney reenact aspects of Helena's life, and that made me think of The Truman Show [movie] which I watched tonight, and suddenly I saw my own staying a lifetime in Olney as identical to but an inversion of Truman's life--where he began constantly trying to leave, I'm more and more trying to stay.
So why am I involved in all this, and why is O. involved in all this? Why are all these coincidental pieces coming together at this time?
As I already noted, it was yesterday that I noticed a series of coincidences centering around the sudden "appearance" of Anthanasius. I did not realize until today, however, that 25 July is the date of Constantine's Jubilee, and it was on 26 July 1999 that I borrowed the book entitled Orations in Praise of Constantine. Not only is it interesting that I found myself the day after Constantine's Jubilee reading about a speech written and delivered by Eusebius, but the very speech that I was reading about was first delivered in Constantinople 25 July 336, in honor of Constantine's thirty year reign as Emperor.
Even though I see myself giving full attention to Helena, it's funny how Constantine somehow manages to make me think more than twice about him as well.
the forthcoming feast of St. Helena - 18 August
I have been giving thought to the notion of how old legends most often equate with irrationality within today's mentality, and how this circumstance stems primarily from the Enlightenment's best efforts to deny irrationality. For me, this proports an image of reality that is not necessarily true. St. Helena's deeds have fallen victim to the rationalist system of reality, yet, as my research continues, St. Helena's story actually gains from rationality's mistakes because her legend remains intact regardless. Simply put, the deeds of St. Helena have come down to us in legend precisely because St. Helena was one of those truly rare individuals that become a legend in their own time.
18 August -- the feast of Saint Helena
Saint Helena is without doubt the person I least expected. There was no prior indication that the life of a woman from late antiquity would captivate my mind the way it has. I imagine many of you reading this now seriously wonder why or how Helena could even be relevant at this late point in the twentieth century. The simple answer is that Helena, as a woman, an empress, and even as an architect was instrumental in the first physical manifestations of a major cultural paradigm shift that ultimately encompassed global proportions. Helena's life presents nothing less than the role of a powerful woman during a time of incredibly major and rapid change. Today is definitely full of major and rapid change. Are we to expect the arrival of a powerful woman as well?
No doubt the most intriguing aspects of looking back at Helena's life [and practice as an architect] are the questions and the nature of the questions that surface.
Was Helena secretly a Christian well before Constantine's conversion the night before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge [12 October 312]?
Did the Donatist Controversy play a role in how Helena's "conversion" to Christianity was [incorrectly?] recorded by Eusebius?
Did the city and citizens of Rome experience their first true peace once Helena began to live there in 313? Was it indeed an Empress, and not an Emperor, that ultimate delivered Rome's "eternal" peace? [In the thirty years of Constantine's rule as an emperor, the combined time he actually stayed in Rome amounts to less than one year.]
Is it just coincidence that Helena's Palace in Rome was literally right down the street from the tract of land Constantine bestowed upon the Papacy in order for it to establish the first Papal Palace and Rome's (and the world's) first Christian basilica? [Don't we all wish we could choose our neighbors?]
Did the city of Rome simple become Helena's sole domain? [What person with an innate talent for architecture suddenly finding themselves holding absolute power wouldn't make the city of Rome their domain?]
After a dozen years of busily building churches in Rome, did Helena see as her next mission to start a similar [church] building boom in the Holy Land, that is, once Constantine became ruler of the eastern half of the Empire?
Did Helena's initialize the building of churches [as many legends say she did] in the towns she passed through as she began to travel across the again united Empire?
Was Helena one of the un-named members of Constantine's family that Eusebius mentions being present at the Council of Nicaea (May 325)?
Did Helena go the Holy Land immediately after the Council of Nicaea rather than a year or two later?
After her activities in the Holy Land, activities which legends say included the finding of the True Cross, did Helena travel back to Rome via the northern coast of Africa?
Is it possible that Helena was making her way back to Rome (to be present at Constantine's twentieth jubilee, July 326) when she learned that Constantine ordered the death of Crispus (Constanitne's first son) in May 326?
Did Crispus snap into schizophrenia in 326, and is that the main reason Constanitne had Crispus killed, aside from the fact that Fausta, Constantine's wife but not the mother of Crispus, may have prodded Constantine's action for the advancement of her own children?
Did Helena have a hand in the subsequent murder of Fausta as some ancient historians surmise she did?
After all her enormous religious activities, did Helena suddenly find herself within the greatest test of her faith?
Are the rare double basilicas of Aquileia and particularly Trier, the last early Christian church begun during Helena's life time, uncanny tributes to Crispus' schizophrenic demise?
Is Crispus the reason Helena made her unexpected appearance within Quondam's gallery 1999 schizophrenia + architecture exhibit?
Is the architect of the parish church of St. Helena in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Olney actually Flavia Julia Helena Augusta herself?
If nothing else, Helena has made me aware of a pivotal time in history about which I previously knew virtually nothing. What is most unfortunate, however, is that practically nothing remains of the buildings Helena designed. Practially all of the churches were eventually redone, very likely by men architects who thought they could do better.
18 August 1999 - epicenter
On 22 May 337, Constantine the Great died at Ancyrona, a suburb of Nicomedia.
Nicomedia is known today as Izmit, Turkey.
Nicomedia, back in the last years of the third century and the ealiest years of the fourth century, was the Roman imperial capital of Diocletian.
Diocletian instiututed the last "great" Roman persecution of the Christians in 303.
Nicomedia is thus where countless Christian martyrs died.
Back then there was all kinds of horrible (for some) news coming out of Nicomedia.
I never imagined that Nicomedia, aka Izmit, would, in my own lifetime, reënact its former status as death capital of the world.