Constantine: The First Emperor

  • The rise of Christianity coincided with the decline of the Roman Empire.
  • Constantine erected new city walls, one of the largest bath complexes outside of Rome, and adjacent to the stadium an imperial palace with a formidable basilica in Trier. Built entirely in brick and roofed with wooden trusses, it presented an axial rectangular hall. The side walls rose on tall arches similar to those of an aqueduct.


  • The building served as an audience hall, with Constantine’s throne placed under the large semidome at the end of the axis. Hypocausts under the pavement heated the basilica like a thermal bath.
  • Maxentius began a quite different style of basilica in Rome, one of the grandest vaulted concrete structures in the world. He restored the Senate house anf the Temple of Venus and Rome which stood next to his new basilica, built a new hippodrome attached to his palace on the Via Appia.
  • Arch of Constantine next to Colosseum was adorned with recyled fragments or spolia from other monuments including the eight of the Dacian slave figures from Trajan’s Forum.
  • Constantine built Rome’s first imperially sponsored church St. John’s in the Lateran. Constantine’s new church cariied nondescript interior. Christians kept their rituals mostly indoors, and their mandate for mass participation required ample space for gathering and moving procession. The layout of Lateran followed a longitudinal plan. The architects avoided typological associations with pagan temples, using basilica meeting hall type, familiar to Constantine as part of his work in Trier, roof were timber beams rather than vaults.
  • Such arcades with rounded arches soon became a standard element of church interiors. The central aisle or nave pushed above the pairs of side aisles to allow clerestory windows to illuminate the space. A freestanding archway rose on four bronze columns as the “triumphal arch of Christ”. Behind this screen a semidome covered a rounded apse for the alter. The placement of the apse at the west end instead of the conventional eastern orientation of almost all later churches was a peculiarity shared by other Constantian churches in Rome.

Rome after Constantine: The Last Classical Buildings

  • During the 5th century the city recieved a series of large churches deespite its shrinking fabric and reduced fortunes. These early Christian basilicas constituted the final works achieved with the classical traditions of ancient Roman architecture.
  • Popes took the place of the emperors as the prime source of patronage. They sponsored several new churches,including Santa Sabina, Santa Maria Maggiore and Santo Stefano Rotondo using a particularly refined classical style as a statement of Rome’s ability to survive with dignity.
  • they sited the three aisle basilica Santa Sabina, its austere brick exterior recalled Constantine’s basilica at Trier. he only stylistic license to clasiical precedents remained the use of arches over its recycled Corithian columns.
  • The flat coffered ceilings and the geometric patterns of the pavements gave Santa Maria Maggiore the fell of interiors such as the Basilica Ulpia in Trajan’s Forum.
  • Santa Stefano Rotondo – the most original of them all- appeared like an imperal mausoleum, with a central dome space wrapped by anular vaulted ambulatory. On the edge of this ring, four rectangular chapels extended radially in the four cardinal directions. To help support the pitched roof over the cylindrical core, they improvised an incongruous arcaded plane that slicd the central space in half. The central was not completed.