by Kelsey Fitzgerald
[student, Rome Sketchbook course, spring 2011]
Emperor Constantine quickly realized how much influence the growing Christian Church had and adopted it into his ways of governing. Shortly after his victory against Maxentius, the Christian community was integrated into the structure of his government. Today, we can see the relationship of government and Christianity by looking at numerous monuments and images throughout Rome. The Arch of Constanine, built in 315ad, was mostly constructed from parts of various pre-existing buildings, but its main focus is the frieze around it's centre, depicting Constantine's journey and victory. In the last frieze of the series we see Constantine as the central figure, larger than everyone else. There he sits on a throne distributing gifts and looking similar to Jesus in the mosaic in the Mausoleum of Santa Costanza. Here a direct comparison of the poses gives one the idea that Constantine viewed himself as having a status somewhere between God and man. Another striking similarity between Constantine and a figure of high religious imagery is the comparison between the second frieze on the Arch of Constantine and the mosaic of the Annunciation of Mary in Santa Maria Maggiore. Both show a figure (Winged Victory for Constantine, an angel for Mary) holding a laurel wreath above the head of the protagonist, in both cases representing a divinely sanctioned victory.