Emperor Constantine the Great is one of the great personalities of world history. Before him, the Church endured heavy persecution at the hands of the Roman emperors. His conversion to Christianity was a great turning point in its history, for, with the publication of the Edict of Religious Tolerance of Milan (Milan, Mediolanum) in January 313, Emperor Constantine ensured the Church complete freedom throughout the Roman Empire. From now on, the Church entered a period of flourishing, progress, and prosperity, its ‘golden century’.
Constantine the Great (also known as Constantine I) was the first Christian Roman Emperor, proclaimed Augustus by his troops on 25 July 306 AD, who ruled the Roman Empire until he died in 337. In Byzantine times, he (Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus) became an iconic and quasi-legendary figure. Moreover, several emperors have symbolically taken the title ‘New Constantine’.
Constantine was sent to Diocletian’s court in Nicomedia immediately after his father was appointed one of the two Caesars of the Tetrarchy in 293. After Constantine died of ill health, troops loyal to Constantius proclaimed Constantine Augustus. Later Galerius granted him the title of Caesar, confirming Constantine’s jurisdiction over the territories held by his father.
Who was Constantine the Great?
He was a providential man for the Christian Church, especially after 312, when – before a decisive battle with his rival for the throne, Maxentius – he was converted. Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius (church historians) stated that on the eve of the battle of Pons Milvus (Eagle’s Bridge) on 28 October 312 against Maxentius, Constantine saw a bright cross in the daytime sky above the sun with the inscription in hoc signo vinces (‘by this sign, you will win’).
Constantine the Great was a providential emperor. Emperor Constantine’s reign (306-337) was the most important change in the history of the Church. The peace brought by the end of persecution introduced the world to a new history of Christianity. The conversion of the victorious emperor at Pons Milvius and the signing of the Edict of Toleration in 313 were events that changed the situation of Christianity.
Constantine’s main objective was to ensure the stability of the empire. To this end, he undertook many military expeditions against rebellious Germanic tribes, and thus demonstrated his military potential by defeating his enemies on the other side of the Rhine. This strategy was successful.
Biography of Constantine
Full name: Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus
Date of birth: 0280 AD
Year of death: 0337 AD
The thread of life: 57 years old
Place of birth: Naissus, Moesia
Father's name: Constantinus I
Mother's name: Helena
Physical appearance: slender, imposing, attractive and always with a serious look
Summary of life: His mother, Elena, had been a simple innkeeper. His father, Constantius Chlorus, was an outstanding Roman general. Gradually, but relentlessly, the ambitious Constantine converted from a pagan mindset (worshipping the god Mars or Apollo) to a belief in Christus victor.
Life lessons: Seeking religious peace in the Empire, he hosted the Church's first ecumenical synod at Nicaea (325), which was called to resolve the most difficult Christological dispute of late antiquity.
Life accomplishments: Constantine the Great is known for legalising Christianity and founding the new capital, Constantinople. The details of his secular activity have not been sufficiently presented or dealt with by historians.
Death cause: Natural causes.
What was Constantine the Great best known for?
The measures taken after the conversion was supplemented by other edicts that were adopted after his conflict in the East with Licinius. So after the victory at Chrisopolis, several laws were passed in which the emperor expressed his will to promote Christianity.
Constantine I (306-337) is known for his reign which was the most important change in the history of the Church. The peace brought by the end of persecution introduced the world to a new history of Christianity. The conversion of the victorious emperor at Pons Milvius and the signing of the Edict of Toleration in 313 were events that changed the situation of Christianity.
The letters presented by the historian Eusebius of Caesarea show that Emperor Constantine was not satisfied with just signing the Edict of Milan. So writing to the prefect Anullinus, the emperor recognized the Church’s right of corporate ownership within the Roman state, plus the exemption of Christian clergy from mineral civilians.
Who is Constantine in the Bible?
Indeed, Emperor Constantine’s actions were based on the belief that he was entrusted by God with the mission of converting the entire Empire. “So while you are bishops for those within the Church, I am appointed by God bishop for those outside it”, said the emperor, as the historian Eusebius testifies.
According to the most important biblical sources, Constantine was an emperor who was a pagan and converted to Christianity. Moreover, he even saw a sign of the cross from God that presented him with future victory through His name. Church history records a letter to the Persian king Shapiro in 325, in which he inquired about the fate of Christians in the Sassanid Empire, declaring himself their protector.
In the time of Emperor Constantine the Great, church writers mention the spread of the Christian religion to peoples within the empire, but some peoples outside the borders are also mentioned. The first mention of Emperor Constantine’s direct intervention in the protection and evangelization of a people beyond the imperial frontier relates to the Persian area.
Key Verse related to Saint Constantine
“Thinking is the great enemy of perfection. The habit of profound reflection, I am compelled to say, is the most pernicious of all the habits formed by civilized man.”