Constantine: The Art and Architecture


Constantine is best known for being the first Christian Roman Empire. He rebuilt the ancient Greek city of Byzantine Empire naming it Nova Roma. He provided it with a Senate and civic offices. It was renamed Constantinople and became the capital of the empire. Constantine played a significant role in the rise of Christian architecture and joined many artists together. Constantine built basilicas, which are Roman public buildings. Lateran Basilica, Old St. Peter's in Rome and the Church of the Apostles are just a few of the basilicas he built. The other type of architecture in the Roman Empire is called Baptistery. Constantine changed art and architecture as we know it today. He developed many Early Christian art and architecture designs.

The Arch of Constantine

Dedicated by the Senate in AD 315, the Arch of Constantine represents the the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312 for sole control of the Roman empire in the west. The inscription on both sides refers to the “divine inspiration”. Eusebius wrote about this in his Life of Constantine. The arch is the last and largest in Rome. It is also the most flamboyant with it's colored stone. Many of the sculptures in the Arch of Constantine have been worked in from other monuments. The eight medallions represent scenes from Hadrian of hunting and sacrifice. The eight rectangle reliefs come from an arch made in AD 176 celebrating the victories of Marcus Aurelius. Three panels are from the Palazzo dei Conservatori. There are eight Dacian captives on the arch which have been partially restored. They come from the Forum of Trajan. Also the two large panel reliefs at one end of the arch and in the reveals of the central arch. Originally this formed part of a long frieze. It is also a possibility that the original emperor was Domitian, would have made his monuments available for reuse. The arch measures 21 meters high in diameter.

Arch of Constantine Attributes the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge.

The Inscription on the Arch of Constantine Rome, Italy AD 312

Constantine Arch The secrets of Emperor Constantine's Arch

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine (Basilica Nova)

The Basilica Nova is also referred to as the Basilica of Maxentius and Basilia of Constantine at different times in history. It was built on the upper Via Sacra between AD 306 or 308 and sometime after AD 313. The basilica is the second largest building in the Forum. The outside of the basilica is made of brick face concrete and has marble up to the vaulting. Maxentius restored a number of Forum monuments counting the Basilica Nova. The basilica stands on a huge rectangular platform of concrete and consisted of a central nave that is 80 meters long. These aisles were divided into three sections by walls pierced by wide arches and ending on each side of the nave in massive piers.

Basilica Constantini Describes the construction of the Basilica Nova and how it was made.

Dartmouth Foreign Study Program Basilica Nova study program.

Basilica of Constantine Detailed picture of Basilica of Constantine

Coffered vaulting and remains of vault support

Long beams made of stone or wood with crossbeams with elaborate decorations. The coffers in the ceilings do not often survive in the ancient buildings. In the Pantheon in Rome coffers were designed to get smaller towards the top. Each individual piece coffers have slopping sides making it wider at the bottom than the top. There are also remains of the sunken coffers of the Maxentius in Rome. A coffered ceiling was meant to symbolize the heavens.

Coffering Explanation of different coffering.

On the Structure of Roman Pantheon Explaining the structure of the Pantheon.

Basilica of Maxentius Explanation of the three coffered vaults of the Basilica

We have learned about the different art and architecture of Constantine and what he has brought to us then and now. We have learned of the Arch of Constantine, the importance of the Basilica's, and how the coffering vaults were structured.