[architect of] Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
I wonder if Flavia Julia Helena Augusta ever imagined that the Church of the Nativity would be a big part of world news just after Easter 2002 as she was first building this Church in AD 325-26.
The basilica at Bethlehem today is [I believe] a sixth century apposition to the original 'Helennian' structure. The interior columns, however, are still the ones Helena chose.
Before Helena, the Nativity site at Bethlehem was a cave.
Helena is also the (undisputed) 'buildier' of the Church of the Ascension, but that basilca no longer exists. A mosque is now on that site.
...Santa Costanza and the story of the double columns and then all the "double" column/Augusta connections.
Re: J.J Norwich and Constantine's tomb
Coincidentally, today, 21 May, is the Eastern Church feast of St. Constantine and St. Helena. And further coincidentally, 21 May was the second Agonalia, the seconf festival of (the two-faced) Janus.
Re: J.J Norwich and Constantine's tomb
St. Acacius (or Agathus) is listed in Butler's Lives Of The Saints on May 8 as Martyr, and dates Acacius 303 or 305. He is said to have perished "for the faith during the persecution under Diocletian and Maximian."
"Constantinople contained two, if not three, churches dedicated in honour of St. Acacius, one of which was built by Constantine the Great. It was nicknamed "the Walnut", because built into its structure was the walnut tree upon which the saint was said to have been suspended for his flagellation."
the other Agonalia -- 9 January
From Butler's Lives of the Saints:
SS. Julian and Basilissa, and Companions, Martyrs (A.D. 304?)
According to their "acts" and the ancient martyrologies, Julian and Basilissa, though engaged in the married state, lived by mutual consent in perpetual chastity, sanctified themselves by the exercise of an ascetic life, and employed their revenues in relieving the poor and the sick. For this purpose they converted their house into a kind of hospital, in which, if we may credit their acts, they sometimes entertained a thousand indigent persons: Basilissa attended those of her sex; Julian, on his part, ministered to the men with such charity that he was later on confused with St Julian the Hospitaller. Egypt, where they lived, had then begun to abound with examples of persons who, either in the cities or in the deserts, devoted themselves to charity, penance and contemplation. Basilissa, after having endured severe persecution, died in peace; Julian survibed her many years, and received the crown of a glorius martyrdom, together with Celsus a youth, Antony a priest, Anastasius and Marcianilla, the mother of Celsus.
What purport to be the acts of these saints are mere romances abounding in contradictions. See the Acta Sanctorm for January 9. The historical existence of any such couple is more than doubtful. One of the versions of the legend of St Alexis (july 17) seems to be simply a transcription of the first paragraph of their long passio.
The first time I read the above was a couple of years ago, and I was purposefully looking to see if, like the Agonalia of 21 May, two saints are also celebrated on 9 January. It interested me that like 21 May, a man saint and a woman saint were again commemorated (if that is the right term). I was already wondering about the possible connection between the two faces of Janus and the subsequent Christian overlay of two (paired) saints relative to the two pagan feast days. I also wondered if Julian and Basilissa somehow symbolically represented Constantine and Helena.
When I recently learned that the word/name Basilissa can also mean Empress -- S.I. Oost, Galla Placidia Augusta, p. 74 -- the case of Julian and Basilissa became even more curious as to a possible symbolic connection. And then I remembered (actually re-researched to make sure) that Julian the Apostate was married to Helena, Constantine's youngest daughter (who was surely named after Helena, Constantine's mother). Could the origins of Ss. Julian and Basilissa actually be some sort of Christian propaganda piece to 'fix' the memory of (the real) husband and wife Julian the Emperor and Helena the Empress/Basilissa?
Glad to see that last weeks NEWSWEEK magazine at least mentioned that some of the columns within the present Basilica of the Nativity are from the original 4th Century (ie, Helena) construction. Helena personally picked those beautiful pink columns.
Not happy that Helena is still not mentioned in the popular press as the real builder of the Nativity church though.
Re: regarding your page w. Santa Croce
I am not at all familiar with Medieval mysticism. What are the dates when mysticism was most prevalent? and where? I sometimes think I am in the midst of some sort of neo-mysticism whenever I pick up the Helena subject. Odd, coincidental things happen, and as more and more things happen I seriously have to wonder about 'signs'. I don't want you to think that I some sort of fanatic, rather I'm just an interested, educated person that's noticing odd things nonetheless. Is mysticism ever related to Pagan augury? I ask because the time of Helena and Constantine was a world where Paganism and Christianity were both in the same pot, so to speak.
laws [of silence] "made"
This week 1676 years ago Rome witnessed the funeral of Helena Augusta. Constantine was in Rome to finish the celebration of his 20th jubilee as Roman emperor on 25 July 326, and Helena was late in arriving from Palestine with a piece of the Cross. Reenactionary indications point to 28 July being the date of Helena's death (very possibly at Naples), and to August 1 being the date of the funeral (a web search of mausoleo elena will show where Helena was buried). Constantine left Rome for the last time on 3 August 326--this is more or less precisely when Rome as capital of the Roman Empire ceased to be, and when Constantinople as capital of the Roman Empire began. And, it is at this time that the law of silence regarding Helena and her finding of the Cross at Golgotha was instituted and immediately enforced. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan during the reign of emperor Theodosius, officially broke the silence on 25 February 395 during his obituary of Theodosius at Milan.
All this may not seem important, but this is first time in modern history for the exact date of Helena's death to be established, thus rendering a rewriting of Constantinian necessary. Ironically, it was Eusebius, the first biographer of Constantine (c. 337) that cleverly recorded the events of Constantine's Vicennalia year in sequence, but modern historiography was led astray because it did not consider the possibility of a law of silence, even though modern historians do nothing but argue over Eusebius' silence.
Unlike damnatio memoriae, which really only more deeply establishes memories via the scars of erasure, the uncanny genius of laws of silence is that the more successful they are, the less history will ever know about them.
If nothing else, it is at least nice to remember the death of the woman who became nothing less than the first real master planner of Christianity and its architectural spread throughout the Middle East and Europe. St. Helena is also the patron saint of miners--Eusebius tells us how Helena freed slave-labor miners as she journeyed from the Middle East on her way back to Rome.
[In 2004, more severe reenactionary implications led to Helena's death having had occurred 25 July 326.]
Re: [was: deconstruction (was: memorials)]
B. Aaron Parker wrote:
Both sides in this struggle have legitimate claims on the land that need to be balanced.
Stephen Lauf replies:
I am curious what exactly the limits of these "legitimate claims" are? For example, do these claims extend to Eastern Orthodox Christians, whose ancestors ruled in the Holy Land/Jerusalem from late 324 to 638? [And what about ancestors of the Crusaders?]
Wonder what would happen if all the occupied/disputed territories were to now come under the sovereignty of a Christian Holy Land state, acting as a buffer between Israel and Palestine. Palestine donates the land, Israel donates the money, and the Christian state operates the rebuilding, which, besides homes and infrastructure, includes many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim institutions. [I know this is a very tiny, undeveloped idea, but an idea nonetheless.]
Helena Augusta can very likely be given credit for renaming Jerusalem in 326 (--just one of her many 'planning' accomplishments). The emperor Hadrian had changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina in the beginning of the 2nd century AD.
church plans (was synagogues)
My ongoing research of Saint Helena has well acquainted me with the designs of the earliest Christian churches. While the domicile 'church' is the earliest of record (very much like the Jewish "minyan" I assume), there is at least literary evidence that churches did exist in the East before Constantine 'converted' to Christianity 28 October 312. For example, the great church of Nicomedia (imperial capital of Diocletian and now Ismit, Turkey) was burned down at the beginning of the Great Persecution in 303.
Of the churches that Helena 'built', most are over martyr's graves, thus there was a basilica hall type building next to a 'martyrium' which is specifically a separate building over the grave. In Rome, all the 'Constantinian' churches, with the exception of what is today St. John Lateran, are built over martyr's graves, usually catacombs. Interestingly, the first church to have a cruciform plan is St. Peter's at the Vatican. Roman architecture scholar Ward Perkins has well argued that the original transept of St. Peter's was indeed a martyrium, and thus considered separate from the basilican nave. I have since wondered whether this 'cross' plan was an idea of Helena's to symbolize St. Peter's own martyrdom--Peter was crucified upside-down. I also wonder if Peter's upside-down crucifixion explains why St. Peter's Basilica is oriented east to west rather than west to east.
A rare church type that was 'popular' during and just after Helena's lifetime is the double basilica. The Cathedral at Trier, Germany (Constantine's imperial capital during much of the first twenty years of his 31 year reign) is still on the site of an enormous double basilica that dates from 326, and indeed is today still two churches connected like Siamese twins. (Trier was Crispus's capital when he was killed by his father Constantine, and it is now fact that the Cathedral of Trier was build over the Imperial residence at Trier. I believe that Eutropia (Constantine's mother-in-law) went to Trier after Helena's funeral to make those demolition/construction arrangements. And then she went to the Holy Land and finished Helena's work there; that's when Eutropia 'built' the basilica at Hebron, where Angels visited Abraham.) There is scholarly dispute over the reason/program of double basilicas. My latest theory (which I think is unique so far) is that double basilicas simply accommodated bi-lingual congregations , namely Latin and Greek. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria and a prolific writer of Greek, was twice exiled to Trier for several years during the 330s-340s. There was a double basilica also at Aquiliae(sp?), which was a busy port at the very top coast of the Adriatic Sea. Double basilicas also occurred along the Dalmatian (eastern Adriatic) coast. And there was at least one double basilica somewhere (I forget the exact location) along the north coast of Africa.
Re: universality / particularity [was: church plans (was: synagogues)]
Bringing the ancient Greek notion of 'sacred place' into the discussion is indeed beneficial to a larger understanding of sacred place in general. But who is this Alexander you mention that prompted Hebrew/Aramaic Christian texts to be translated into Greek? When one reads about the early Christian formation of theology, one is amazed at the intellectual rigor of the arguments. I found myself simply wondering how these ancient guys got so smart. Later it dawned on me that early Christian intellectualism is indeed (literally) the offspring of Judaic intellectualism.
My favorite commonality within ancient myths are the metabolic (ie, creative and destructive) twin brothers within many, many creation myths. Campbell often mentions these, but doesn't really focus on or highlight them as the distinct seminal(!) phenomenon it is. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, etc.--even schizophrenia + architectures by the brothers metabolic for those that remember.
I am fascinated by the story of the last attempt to restore the Temple of Jerusalem (circa 350s) by emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian was the son of one of Constantine's half brothers, husband to Constantine's youngest daughter Helena (who they now believe was also buried with her sister Constantina at what is today Santa Costanza at Rome), and brief reviver of Paganism and Hellenism within the eastern half of the Roman Empire. I'm not intending to be disrespectful, but I can't help but believe that Julian sanctioned the restoration of the Temple only out of spite to his immediate Christian Imperial ancestors--Constantine, Helena (who is definitely not a blood relation to Julian), and Eutropia (who may or may not be a blood relation to Julian) built all of Christianity's first great churches on Christianity's most sacred sites, and Julian, clever devil that he was, simply wanted to do them all one better! As I mentioned here before, the full story of the last restoration (attempt) of the Temple of Jerusalem is an interesting story all on its own.
Beyond that, when I say that "sacred sites seem to remain sacred no matter what the religion" I am mostly referring to pagan sites of northwestern Europe and England that Christian churches were built upon to eradicate the paganism. I find it nicely ironic that it is the 'sacredness' of the sites that endures most of all. Patrick also added nice examples in Mexico where the sacredness endures most as well.
Just as an aside, while it is long a common belief that Christianity was most set out to end Judaism, that thinking is largely a misinterpretation, because the reality is that Christianity most set out to end Paganism, and for the most part it succeeded in doing that, even in Africa and the New World! Remember, the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple was carried out by pagan Romans. I'll even go so far as to say that there can be no Christianity without Judaism, nor without Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Taoism. [I have a felling I'm missing one other religion, but I can't think of what it might be.]
21 May 1972, etc.
sometime during the reign of Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605):
"According to an eyewitness, a fall of masonry during the construction of the new papal altar caused an unexpected crack to appear in the ground. Della Porta claimed to discern through it an altar older than Callixtus's and, what is more, the very cross of gold laid upon Peter's bronze sarcophagus by St. Helena. The pope, who was at once notified, bustled to the site accompanied by three cardinals. By means of a torch held by the architect, the party were sure that they too saw these things. Clement and his companions were so awed by the spectacle that after a confabulation His Holiness forbade the sepulchre to be disturbed further and commanded the aperture to be filled with cement in his presence.
There are excellent reasons for doubting this picturesque story. In the first place, it is most likely that St. Helena's gold cross and the bronze sarcophagus escaped the Saracen depredations of 846. If they did, and if they were truly seen by Della Porta and Pope Clement VIII, then they must have been rifled and destroyed since. In fact, no untoward events have taken place during the subsequent three and a half centuries up to our own day in which such a disaster could have befallen the sacred treasure of a sanctuary so hidden and well guarded. Furthermore, no mention of the cross and sarcophagus was made by Bernini when in the 1620s he dug the deep foundations for the baldacchino. Nor indeed were there any signs of them when Pope Pius XII's excavators reached the area below Callixtus's altar in the 1940s."
--James Lees-Milne, Saint Peter's: The Story of Saint Peter's Basilica In Rome (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1967), pp. 225-6.
21 May is the Orthodox Catholic feast of Sts. Constantine and Helena, the very individuals that originally built St. Peter's Basilica.
I find it interesting that often signs quickly appear and then quickly disappear.
double cathedrals ?
Double cathedrals (basilicas), specifically those of the Helena/Constantine era, are a rare architectural church typology. Krautheimer's Early Christian Architecture names and illustrates two double cathedrals, Aquileia (313-19) and Trier (after 325), and there is a footnote on "double cathedrals"--"Examples are found along the Istrian coast at Pola, Porec, Nesactium, Trieste, and Brioni, and in Carinthia at Hoischugel and Hemmaberg" (and then giving German and Italian text references to studies of specific cathedrals/locations). I find this typology very intriguing, not only architecturally, but also because of its specific concentration both by location(s) and time period. I admit to not fully conducting research on the subject, but nonetheless I have a 'theory' as to the existence of double cathedrals in the first place.
Simply put, I wonder if double cathedrals represent places where religious services were conducted for both Latin and Greek speaking congregations. For example, the repeated presence of Athanasius at Trier at least suggests some prominent Greek speaking at Trier in the first half of the fourth century, and I assume Latin was spoken at Trier since its founding. Additionally, Trier's Aula Palatina (the Constantinian throne hall, circa 306-312) exhibits brick-workmanship that prior to that time was only found in the East, hence suggesting a migrant workforce at Trier. The notion of congregations split between Latin speakers and Greek speakers may also explain the presence of double cathedrals along the Istrian coast. (I do not know where Carinthia is, but judging by the German names, they might be near Trier.)
Is there a (hopefully) readily available study of double cathedrals? Is the notion of "bi-lingual" congregations completely off base?
Re: double cathedral ?
Your reply does help, but it also shows that a definite reason for double cathedrals or double churches remains elusive. I recall reading (but have since forgotten where) the explanation of double cathedrals being designed for "those who would receive communion from those who could not" I believe in reference to Trier. I also once did a web search on "double basilica" and found reference to Aliki. Having origin dates of the churches you mentioned would be more helpful, as well as the plans of each church if available. At least that is how I would like to continue the study of these buildings, if I had the resources, thus enabling a comparative analysis.
Here are some other questions:
Was the speaking language of a Christian congregation even relevant during the fourth century?
Were Christian services celebrated in the vernacular during the fourth century?
Was the fourth century Roman Empire largely a Latin speaking world, or were Latin and Greek somewhat equally popular languages throughout the Empire, particularly during the time of the Neo-Flavians?
The double cathedral at Trier, for me, stands out because of its original enormity in size (more than twice the size of the double churches that still stand in Trier today), and because it was imperially sanctioned, in that prior to the cathedral construction the site was an (or was it the?) Imperial palace. Of all the early Christian basilicas directly linked to Constantine (and Helena), this church is the only double. Is there any positive evidence of what languages were popularly spoken at Trier at the time in question?
[Just now I am reminded of once as a child going to Mass in Bavaria. I was somewhat shocked that all the men sat on one side of the church and all the women and children sat on the other side of the church. I know I'm now going to be close to guilty of freely associating, but was division of the sexes perhaps a reason for double cathedrals and double churches? I probably need to remind everyone here that I am an architect, and from much study of architecture history, it is more often than not that "form follows function," thus, in the case of double basilicas precisely at the time when Christian church architecture was in seminal development, I'm trying to investigate what the function was that formed double basilicas.]