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Title: The religious topography of late antique Rome (AD 313-440) : a case for a strategy
Author: Mulryan, Michael James John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2672 7822
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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The thesis argued is that in the fourth and fifth centuries ecclesiastical authorities in Rome sought to Christianise the city and its inhabitants through the location of new basilicas within the walls. The current consensus argues that all the churches constructed within the city were built where they were due to Christian land ownership of that site, because an area was a particularly populous one, or that there was a pre-Constantinian 'house-church' on the spot. This, for me, is looking at the city on too superficial a level. If we move away from this perspective and more towards a viewpoint that actually sees these fourth and fifth century churches in the context of the buildings that surrounded them, we can then regard them in the way the contemporary population of Rome would have. In this way, I believe we can reveal an intentional programme by the Roman Church of placing many of its centres of worship in strategically useful areas for its own benefit. In other words, the frequent proximity of these churches to other important buildings or public areas I believe had an effect on worshippers at those churches and on general passers-by. The intended effect, I would argue, was to increase church attendance and create visible and memorable Christian markers throughout the city in order to gradually 'Christianise' it. I put forward the idea that there were four main factors that Christian builders of this period consciously considered and looked for when they were building a new church. They were: (i) is it easily accessible or highly visible (ii) is it close to an area of frequent public congregation (iii) is it near to a significant pre-existing pagan structure or (iv) is it proximate to a bath house and therefore having some sort of relationship with it Not all the Christian churches of this period fit these criteria but, I conclude, most do and therefore argue for a conscious strategy by the Church to Christianise and consequently 'de-paganise' the city. The criteria I have described are not however new maxims for religious buildings. Most of these considerations were followed by the builders of pagan structures in the Classical city, although here for the benefit and notoriety of the builder rather than any desire to promote a specific cult. The increased popularity of a deity may have been an unintentional side-effect however, but whatever the case, such considerations certainly made temples the most visible and prominent buildings in a city. As a result, as well as examining Christian case-studies to argue my case, I will also look at the pagan structures that follow the same rules, as their prominence and importance was something the Church wanted to replicate for its centres of worship. This, I hope, will serve as a comparison and show how builders of churches were merely using more ancient techniques to achieve their ends. My thesis begins with a broad introduction including the historiography of the topic, which in fact overlaps many fields, and where I stand within it. My first chapter sets out my reasoning for thinking that the Roman Church controlled its own building programme independently from the state and so could potentially choose sites on which to build for its own benefit. The second chapter begins my discussion of these churches by looking at those where visibility and easy accessibility was a priority. The third section looks at those Christian centres that can claim an association with a pagan temple or shrine and what the implications of this may be. The fourth and fifth chapters examine those churches that have some sort of relationship with a theatre or circus or a bath-house respectively. Finally, I argue against the theory that some intra-mural churches were built on the site of famous martyrdoms by showing how the evidence for this is anachronistic and suspicious. To serve as a comparison, the belief that certain churches were built over a martyr's tomb is justifiable, as here we have reliable and convincing evidence. To complete the thesis I draw together the accumulated evidence and make my conclusions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available