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Emperor Constantine

How did Christianity become such an important religion in the Roman Empire?

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In 312 CE Constantine was about to lead his army in a battle that would change the world. The soldiers of his enemy Maxentius faced him at the Milvian Bridge outside Rome. The winner would become the Roman Emperor.

Constantine was a pagan who worshipped the sun, and he was worried about the coming battle. Tradition says that he started to pray to the “Supreme God” for help. After praying he looked up and saw a Christian symbol in the sky above the sun. That night in a dream he said he saw Jesus telling him to use the Christian symbol chi-rho “as a safeguard in all battles”. Constantine ordered it to be put on his soldier’s shields – and won the battle.

The victory was celebrated by building a new triumphal arch in Rome. Although most people were still pagans, Christianity became the favoured religion of the Roman Empire.

Things did not all change straight away. Coins kept pictures of the old Roman gods and Constantine’s new church in Rome was built on the edge of the city to avoid upsetting the pagans. However Constantine, and his mother Helena, built great churches in the Holy Land to mark the places where Jesus was born, taught and was buried.

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