In May, 2014, I will be leading a tour of Rome. I’m calling the tour, From Pagans to Christians – The Art, Architecture, and Proto-Theology of the Earliest Christians. My co-leader will be Professor Edward Bradley, my intellectual mentor and a professor of classics at Dartmouth College for over 40 years.
Here is an early draft of my description of the trip:
When the nascent Christian faith arrived in Rome, it didn’t arrive in a vacuum. Instead, it landed in the seat of the most vibrant, robust, and powerful empire that the world had ever seen. Although it had been founded by an itinerant rabbi in the hinterlands of the empire, Christianity quickly took up residence in the capitol, and by the end of the first century, Rome was the de facto headquarters of the faith.
Between the time that Clement of Rome died in 99 and Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 314, Christianity both flourished in Rome and suffered persecutions. A one-night trip to Naples and Pompeii will provide a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand the types of homes in which the early Christians met, as well as evidence of the various mystery cults with church the newfound religion competed.
Upon Constantine’s edict, Christianity quickly blossomed in a much more public fashion. Churches were build, mosaics laid, and sarcophagi carved, all detailing the symbols by which the followers of Jesus understood themselves. By Constantine’s death in 337, he had commissioned a massive Christian building programme – ten churches in Rome alone, not to mention churches in Constantinople and elsewhere – many of which still stand today.To see the way that these earliest Christians lived, both before and after their religion was made legal, opens vistas of understanding to the student of theology and the history of the church. Further, the absorption of the Christian faith into the ruling of the empire was initiated during these early centuries; only now is that knot being untied.
Finally, Rome is one of the great cities in the world. It is a place of myths, legends, and romance; of great sights, great food, and rich history. To spend a week walking Rome is undoubtedly life-changing.
You can watch this space for more information, and you can fill out the form below to be notified when registration is live.
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