From Catacombs to Basilicas:
the first 800 years of Christianity in Rome
with Charles Freeman, (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 23rd January, 2016.

constantine This study day will focus on what we know, from tradition, documents and surviving buildings, of early Christianity in Rome and how a distinctive Latin Christianity evolved. It will end with the crowning of Charlemagne in St Peter’s in AD 800, a turning point in the history of western Christianity.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:         Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:         Setting the scene. The birth of Christianity and its arrival in Rome. The early house churches of Rome and the formation of a church. Early Christian worship and art in the catacombs.

11.15 – 11.40:         Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:         Constantine and Christian Rome. The Battle of the Milvian Bridge, 312, and the transformation of Rome by Constantine. Honouring the martyrs and the first great Christian buildings, Santa Costanza, old St. Peter’s, Santa Sabina, and Santa Maria Maggiore.

12.40 – 14.00:         Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:         The popes, 312- 604. A special study of Leo the Great and Gregory the Great. The church in Rome at a time of the empire’s decay and collapse.

14.50 – 15.10:        Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:         Between East and West. Byzantine influence in Rome was strong and many seventh to eighth century popes were Greek-speaking, drawing on eastern styles of art and architecture. This session will explore how Rome transferred these links to Constantinople towards northern Europe with the crowning of Charlemagne in St. Peter’s in 800 symbolising the establishment of a more exclusive Latin Christianity.

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

About Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman is a Suffolk-based freelance academic author with a wide interest in the history of the Mediterranean. His published works include The Closing of the Western Mind (2002) and A New History of Early Christianity (2009). His most recent book, Holy Bones , Holy Dust, How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe (Yale University Press 2011), is the first systematic history of relic cults in English. He is also Historical Consultant to the Blue Guides series and has contributed to the historical introductions for the city of Rome, which he has known for many years. A fuller biography may be found online at ‘Charles Freeman Yale University Press’.

Previous Feedback

When asked what was “best about the day” at a recent Study Day by Charles people said:

  • It was just brilliant all day.  Charles has been just wonderful
  • Genial and informative approach to an interesting subject
  • Charles was a very good speaker, informing, clear, engaging and entertaining
  • The lectures, excellent
  • Full notes, good illustrations
  • Very clear, full of information, very knowledgeable speaker

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Barber, Annabel, Pilgrim’s Rome, Somerset Books, 2012. Basically a guide book for those in Rome, but useful information on the catacombs and early churches.

Duffy, Eamon, Saints and Sinners, A History of the Popes, fourth edition, Yale UP, 2014, especially Chapters One and Two. Readable introduction to the papacy.

Elsner, Jas, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph, Oxford, 1998. Oxford History of Art series, well illustrated.

Jensen, Robin Margaret, Understanding Early Christian Art, Routledge, 2000. Good on catacomb art.

Krautheimer, Richard, Rome, Profile of a City, 312-1308, Princeton, 2000. Good on architecture and historical background.

Krautheimer, Richard, Three Christian Capitals, Rome, Constantinople, Milan, California UP, 1992. Comparative study of the Christianisation of the cities.

Lampe, Peter, From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, Continuum, 2003. Authoritative but heavy going!!

Webb, Matilda, The Churches and Catacombs of Early Rome, Sussex Academic Press, 2001. Basic guide with good maps, etc.