During the first three centuries of the Christian era, Christianity evolved a new faith one that can’t be taken in exclusion of the social, cultural, and religious framework of the late Roman Empire. Therefore, Christian architecture has to be seen in the context of a Roman-Hellenistic world. Early believers didn’t have the means to found a Christian architecture, their congregations, and mission meetings were held in whatever place suited the occasion. Prior to 200, only the state religion erected temples in the tradition of Roman and Greek architecture. The situation radically changed, in the second century, the number of Christians massively increased especially in Minor Asia. By 230, Christians started to figure in councils, the palace, the senate, the forum. That Christian expansion provoked major standard changes in the state leading eventually to an authority conflict. The Christian segment of the population had to face the challenges of officialdom. The refusal of Christians to participate in public worship and their claim of secular power has added to the complexity of the situation. The government’s reaction to their demands was violent, a big amount of Christians were executed and arrested. In consequence, cemeteries had to be constructed to grasp the number of martyrs. In fact, it becomes inevitable to start edifying some architectural buildings destined to serve the new needs of Christians, to work as a cemetery for martyrs as well as a shelter for congregations. Therefore, both religious and social factors favored the construction of Christian community houses. These community houses developed to the actual form of churches by the fourth century of which the beginning was marked by the reign of the first Christian emperor, Constantine. The latter saw himself as a prophet who is “divinely appointed to lead Christ’s church to victory” (Krautheimer, 39) therefore he employed serious efforts to raise the church’s rank and to draw many pagans towards it. The period of his reign was indeed considered as the Golden age of Christianity.
Iconology of St Peters Rome