paradigm shifting architectures of closely related imperials


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9 November 1778
Piranesi, as far as I can tell, was the most recent past architect/theorist to give architectural homage to Helena. Four plates in the Antichita Romane vol. III depict Helena's (ruined) mausoleum in Rome plus her sepulcher (which is now in the Vatican Museum). In vol. II of the Antichita Romane there are four plates that depict (what is today called) Santa Costanza, (originally the mausoleum of Constantina, the daughter of Constantine, and the grand daughter of Helena and Eutropia), plus Constantina's sepulcher (which is now also in the Vatican museum in the same room as Helena's sepulcher). Piranesi also offers a reconstructed plan of the original Constantinian basilica (it was quite huge) built over the catacomb where St. Agnes was buried, to which Santa Costanza was originally attached.

sarcophagus, not sepulcher
The sarcophagus of Helena and the sarcophagus of Constantina are in the same room at the Vatican Museum, not their respective sepulchers as I mistakenly posted.

constantina, etc.
for the record:
Helena is the mother of Constantine.
Eutropia is the mother of Fausta.
Constantina is the daughter of Constantine and Fausta.
Helena is given credit for (at least) building the Basilica of the Nativity and the (now gone) Basilica at the site of the Ascension. (c. 325 AD)
Eutropia is credited with restoring the holy sites at Mamre (today's Hebron). (c. 327 AD)
Constantina is best known to architects today via her mausoleum in Rome which is commonly referred to as Santa Costanza. (c. 354 AD)
The major thrust of my research into the lives of Helena and Eutropia is to substantiate the hypothesis that Helena and Eutropia where the active forces behind the new architecture in Rome between October 28, 312 and c. 328 AD, which includes all of the first 'Constantinian' Christian Basilicas anywhere, plus various Imperial, but not Christian, buildings.
[According to current historical scholarship,] Helena died and was buried in Rome c. 329 AD
Constantinople was dedicated by the emperor Constantine 11 May 330 AD.

emergence from the East
Rick's post about the sack and ultimate fall of Constantinople is indicative of much history that does not often get mentioned in Western culture. I personally first learned about the later history of Constantinople in the early 1990s, particularly about the very significant role that mid-15th century Byzantine scholars played in the advancement of (Italian) Renaissance Classical/Humanist thought. The Byzantine scholars were fleeing the advancing Ottomans, and brought to Italy many ancient/classical texts that the West knew of by name but otherwise thought to be no longer in existence. It is fair to speculate that the Renaissance as we now know it would never have 'emerged' without the scholarship of the Eastern Roman Empire.
What Rick did not mention is that the 1204 'western' sack of Constantinople also started the Catholic Church schism that is still official to this very day. Indeed, there are TWO Holy Apostolic Churches (and if you asked me it's totally up to the Roman Catholic Pope to end the schism by admitting Roman/Latin wrong-doings and even make restitutions). But it can also be reasoned that Constintine himself started the Christian split between East and West when he made Constantinople his official Roman Imperial capital in 330 AD.
At the time of Constantine's Christian 'conversion' at the Milvian Bridge in Rome on the eve of 28 October 312, Christianity was already a well established (albeit occassionally persecuted) organization with a diocesan hierarchy of bishops firmly in place and the bishop of Rome the Church leader. Althought Rome was symbolically the supreme city of the Empire, the four Imperial capitals at that time were Nicomedia (today's Izmit, Turkey), originally the capital/court of Diocletian (and subsequent Eastern Augusti) where Constantine actually spent his formative years; Milan, seat of the Western Augustus, Thessalonica, seat of the Eastern Caesar (ie, junior Augustus), and Treves (Trier, Germany), seat of the Western Caesar. Jerusalem was then a Roman city built by Hadrian, with a Temple of Venus on the site of the Holy Sepulcher (of Christ).
Trier was Constantine's capital/official residence from 306 to c. 314 -- Constantine moved around a great deal throughout the Empire during his entire reign, mostly on military expeditions. Constantine's throne hall, the Aula Palatina, at Trier is perhaps the best example of the Roman basilican type to be built immediately prior to the construction of the Christian basilicas in Rome. Interestingly, we learn from Ward-Perkins (Roman Architecture) that the brickwork of the Aula Palatina is the first instance of such work in the West, with earlier example of such work in the East, indicating that Constantine may well have imported the best artisans from places in the East, like Nicomedia, which is where he lived before residing at Trier. Helena most likely met Eutropia at Trier, since it was at Trier that Constantine married Fausta, Eutropia's daughter. The ruins of the Constantinian Imperial baths at Trier were the largest Imperial baths outside of Rome, and their construction is very similar to the construction of Helena's mausoleum in Rome.
At the same time that Constantine was ruling the northeastern part of the Empire from Trier, Maxentius was usuptively ruling Italy and Northern Africa from Rome. Maxentius was the son of Eutropia, and the brother of Fausta. Maxentius also built some very large Roman buildings while in power, eg, a gigantic circus along the Appian Way, and actually began the construction of what is today called the Basilica of Constantine in the Roman Forum (not to be confused with the Christian basilicas).
[I now wonder whether the artisans that built the Aula Palatina in Trier where also the artisans that built the first Christian basilicas in Rome just after 312 AD. Or, more probably, did the eastern artisans finally meet the artisans of Rome, thus generating a new style?]
The spiral columns of Bernini's baldachine in St. Peter's are based on a set of columns that formed a screen around the altar of the original St. Peter's Basilica. Legend says that the columns came from Solomon's Temple, but all we really know is that columns where brought to Rome from Greece. It was during Constantine's reign that the particularly offensive Pagan religions were outlawed and their temples dismantled and their treasuries confiscated. It is well known that the columns in early Christian basilicas were from preexisting buildings/temples. I like to think that the original spiral columns of St. Peter's were actually the most beautiful columns in the Roman empire at that time, and that they were personally procured by Helena, who made sure they wound up at St. Peter's. (It is historically recorded that while Constantine was sole ruler of the Empire (ie, after 19 September 324) he granted Helena access to the Empire's treasury that was equal to Constantine's own access, ie, she could do and spend in any way she saw fit.) The columns still exist today, and a pair of them is in each of the upper niches of the four piers holding up the dome of St. Peter's.
So it seems that the Vatican has 'received' it's richest treasures from the East from the very beginning.
ps Constantine founded Constantinople 8 November 324 [curiously close to 9 November] and Constantinople was officially dedicated 11 May 330.

context (Quondam thinking?)
I just found out yesterday that the Rape of the Sabine Women (one of Rome's inaugural 'urban' events) occurred on 18 August. I was somewhat stunned when I read that (in Plutarch's Romulus) because 18 August is also the Roman Catholic Church feast of Saint Helena. Yes, I subsequently smiled a lot yesterday.

..... language [and innuendo?]
The current discussion on architectural language reminds me of a small exhibit at Quondam online earlier this year--innuendo. In a general sense, the display deals with the 'language' and meaning of architectural planimetric forms, while specifically the display deals with the 'master key' that unlocks the longheld mysteriousness of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius (i.e., the large plan of the Fields of Mars). And in hyper-contextual terms, the display refers to the two rapes that generated Rome: the rape of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia by the god Mars, which in turn produced Romulus and Remus, and then the rape of the Sabine women, an attack planned by Romulus in order to further populate his newly founded namesake urbs. That's rape, then rape reenacted, then Eternal City! What better way to institute a 'place' then with the notion "like father, like son."

It is becoming more and more clear that Piranesi was well aware of Tertullian's De Spectaculis text, and indeed utilized it while planning out the Ichnographia Campus Martius. First it was the passage regarding the Equiria, and now there are passages regarding "munus", a death rite, where death games accompanied the funeral day. It is this new knowledge that explains the two circuses within the Bustum Hadriani.

Another way of viewing the issue of planning/design via control is to see it as a metabolic activity, meaning, rather than just control being employed, what is really going on is that something is being destroyed in the guise of something being created.
This metabolic 'imagination' (in Western history) appears much earlier than the Renaissance, however. A careful study of the Roman Empire during the 4th century AD reveals a very systematic 'destruction' of Paganism in the guise of 'creating' Christianity. Is it just coincidence that the feast of St. Helena on 18 August is also the date of the Rape of the Sabine Women? Or that the dual feast of St. Constantine and St. Helena (son and mother) on 21 May is also the date of the second Agonalia, one of two feasts in honor of the 'two-faced' god Janus? Or that the first feast of the Agonalia on 9 January is in the Christian calendar likewise the feast of dual martyrs, the 'perpetually chaste' husband and wife Sts. Julian and Basilissa, who although today are doubted to have actually existed nonetheless bear some resemblance to Constantine and Helena and even more so to Christ and Mary? Or that Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, one of Rome's top seven churches and the continuation of the chapel that St. Helena built in her Roman home (the Sessorian Palace) which contains ground/dirt from Calvary which Helena brought back from the Holy Land, was dedicated on 20 March which was Pagan Rome's day of blood?
[It still seems necessary to point out that as of 28 October 312 Christianity was imperially sanctioned within the western half of the Roman Empire. That as of 324, when Constantine became sole ruler of the whole Empire, that then too Christianity was imperially sanctioned throughout the whole Empire. And that in 380, under the rule of the emperor Theodosius, Christianity then became the Roman Empire's official and sole religion, hence at the same time officially ending all Paganism throughout the empire.]
Interestingly, the first 'barbarian' invasion of the city of Rome circa 400 caused the subsequent resurgence of Paganism in Rome since the promised wonders of Christianity did not transpire in Rome, rather their seeming exact opposite. [Also interestingly, those first barbarian attackers were actually Christians!] This new rise of Paganism is what prompted St. Augustine to write The City of God Against the Pagans [yes, this is the same book more commonly known as simply The City of God, although its full title is much more to the point]. So, getting back to modern planning and 'control', perhaps it's all just a reenactment of what a bishop from North Africa published almost 1600 years ago.

more on (metabolic) control
The following is from Butler's Lives of the Saints January 24, St. Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, Martyr (c. A.D. 250):
The most celebrated of the ancient bishops of Antioch after St. Ignatius was St. Babylas, who succeded Zebinus about the year 240, but regrettably little is known about him. According to St. John Chrysostom he was the bishop who, Eusebius reports, refused admittance to the church on Easter day in 244 to Philip the Arabian -- alledged to be a Christian -- till he had done penance for the murder of his predecessor the Emperor Gordian. St. Babylas died a martyr during the persecution of Decius, probably in prison as Eusebius says, but Chrysostom states he was beheaded.
St. Babylas is the first martyr of whom a translation of relics is recorded. His body was buried at Antioch; but in 351 the caesar Gallus removed it to a church at Daphne a few miles away to counteract the influence there of a famous shrine of Apollo, where oracles were given and the licentiousness was notorious. The oracles were indeed silenced, and in 362 Julian the Apostate [the mid-4th century Roman Emperor that renounced Christianity and briefly revived imperial Paganism even though he was the son of one of Constantine's half brothers and was married to Constantine's youngest daughter Helena, namesake of you know who!] ordered the relics of the martyr be removed. Accordingly they were taken back to their former resting-place, the Christians accompanying them in procession, singing the psalms that speak of the powerlessness of idols and false gods. The following evening, we are told, the temple of Apollo was destroyed by lightening [how 'naturally' convenient!]. A little later there was a third translation, made by the bishop St. Meletius, to a basilica he built across the Orontes; Meletius himself was buried next to St. Babylas.
[The bracketed comments are my insertions.]
It was with the death of Julian the Apostate during the night of 26 June 363 that the (thoroughly metabolic) Constantinian dynasty ended. Constantine first came to (an imperial level of) power 25 July 306.

2001.03.03 14:55
epicenter/reenactment reenactment
It's been a while since I experienced an actual earthquake, one in Philly when I was a child, late at night about 3 something if I remember correctly, and those more or less regular rumblings one experiences in LA, CA (I vacationed there several times in the 1980s).
I wasn't straight off thinking about the recent India and Washington State earthquakes in terms of reenactment until Anand welcomed Gregory to "the brotherhood"--a kind of primal/visceral ritualistic reenactment connection.
Although far removed from Anand's and Gregory's first hand earthquake experiences, I was nonetheless also (recently in 1999) "shocked" by an earthquake. It was the one in Izmit, Turkey, when the issue of truly unsafe "modern" construction then too became news.
I had read a little about the earthquake in Turkey online the day it happened. That night as I was preparing dinner, I was also watching the NEWS on TV. It was then that I heard the name Izmit as epicenter. I said out loud, "Izmit!?! Isn't that what Nicomedia is called today?" I was then just newly becoming aware of Nicomedia and its place in Late Roman Empire history: imperial capital of the emperor Diocletian, home of the young soldier Constantine, not far at all from where St. Helena was born, site of many of the last great spectacles of Christian persecution, the place where Constantine received his deathbed baptism and thence where Constantine died. I knew all this about 'ancient' Nicomedia, yet until 19 August 1999 I didn't even give a thought to Nicomedia/Izmit in our time. Now all this may not seem "shocking" except 18 August is the feast of St. Helena and on 18 August 1999 I wrote a tribute to Helena here at design-l.
Today I quite unexpectedly received an email from a woman I do not know. She was doing a web search on augury and found a copy of "Equinoctial Augury", a letter I posted to various lists on 23 September 1999, and she was "moved" enough by what I wrote to (in her own words uncharacteristically) respond.
The woman who wrote me postscripted her email with, "(a crow just swooped low by the window, I take this as a sign.)"

2001.03.04 14:46
more reenactment than I thought
Apparantly there was an earthquake at Nicomedia/Izmit on 24 August 358 AD (that's approx. 20 years after Constantine died there).

2001.04.08 11:02
militarism and freedom
I have to start by stating I know virtually nothing about the Etruscans and their relation to Rome and the Italian peninsula. Regarding the Roman (mythological) origins of Rome I do have some knowledge, however.
It began with a rape, specifically a divinity, Mars, raping a (Vestal) virgin, Rhea Silvia. [Perhap an investigation into the history of the Vestal Virgin cult may reveal Etruscan origins?]
This rape engendered twin brothers, Romulus and Remus.
Then came fratricide in a fight for domination. Romulus killed Remus and thus the 'Eternal City' is hence known as Rome (rather than Reme).
To populate his namesake city, Romulus devises a massive date rape, culturally depicted as The Rape of the Sabine Women. [August 18, same date as the feast of St. Helena -- this is the only clue I'll provide now as to the 'Roman' Christian inversion of all the 'facts' here outlined.] So here we have the son reenacting the father via the act of rape all in the cause of procreation of citizenry.
A year or two after the rape of the Sabine women, the Sabine men decided to avenge their daughters and attacked Romulus and his urbs. Romulus remained victorious, and paraded his enemies armor to certify his 'triumph', hence the many times renacted Roman Triumph.
So goes the 'myth' of the origins of an 'eternal' city and then the origins of an empire. In concise terms it's rape, fratricide, rape reenacted, triumph, triumph reenacted [and then Imperial Rome as a whole is reenacted by Roman Christianity, yet in an inverted fashion].

2001.05.27 20:02
the PSA of CRI
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.
QUAESTIO ABSTRUSA 002: The Paradigm Shifting Architectures of Closely Related Imperials will be featured as a work-in-progress at beginning June 2001. Many of the puzzle pieces will be presented, although how the pieces fit together will remain somewhat undisclosed. Release of the finished work on compact disk is scheduled for 18 August 2001, the feast of St. Helena and the 2,750th odd anniversary of one of ancient Rome's oldest historical events, namely the rape of the Sabine women.



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