One thing you’ll notice when you visit Rome is that classical things got preserved – if they could be Christianized in some way. It is easy to get upset at Christians for such imperialism, but their faith was perhaps stronger than ours, and the choice, for them, was either Christianization, or obliteration. Let us be glad for such things as:

• Trajan’s column being topped with a statue of St. Peter.

As a student asked today, why didn’t they rename it the “Monotheon”? Or the “Panhagion!”, I replied.

• The Pantheon becoming the “Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs.”


• Egyptian obelisks being crowned with crosses

• Hadrian’s Mausoleum becoming the Castel Sant’Angelo, the medieval papal safe house. 

The Colosseum, alas, was not Christianized – thus its dilapidated state. Once Emperor Theodosius banned gladiatorial combat in the late fourth century, there was no use for this building, so it was used as a quarry in the Middle Ages, and you can find bits of the Colosseum in other buildings throughout Rome. It has been considered sacred by Christians as a site of martyrdom, but I’ve often felt it was a bit of a shame that there was no late antique Joel Osteen figure who would repurpose the Colosseum as a megachurch. 

By the way, the official name of the Colosseum is the Flavian Amphitheater, having been built during the Flavian dynasty in the late first century A.D. The second word, “amphitheater,” is also accurate, as the theater goes all the way around (amphi = Greek for “on both sides”). Most “amphitheaters” these days are actually just theaters. 

(All images Wikipedia.) 

3 thoughts on “Rome

  1. We were in the Pantheon when we took a Queen’s University
    Alumni trip to Tuscany and Rome. There was a political group
    ensconced in one of the side alcoves that was earnestly collecting
    signatures on a petition to restore the Italian monarchy. This was
    abolished (after a national vote, I believe) in 1946. The last king
    was an Umberto. Wasn’t long on the throne.

  2. A further comment about the Pantheon: The dome is open in the
    middle so the central area of the ground level is completely open to the
    elements. The various chapels/altars are around the inside rim so are not
    completely exposed.

  3. “What happens when it rains?” is the usual question from students when first learning about this building.

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