Patrick Azar ’19 — Today we spent much of our day exploring the roman forum after visiting some churches in the city including the basilica di Sante Croce (basilica of the holy cross) and the Lateran baptistery. The Basilica of the Holy Cross was built in the fourth century and holds many church relics including Saint Thomas’s finger that touched Jesus’ wound, wood fragments, a nail, and the sign from the Holy Cross, and thorns from Jesus’s crown of thorns. All of these relics were brought to the city by Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena after her visit to the Holy Land.
The Lateran Baptistery originates from the time of Constantine however the structure seen today was built in the fifth century. This structure for a long time was the only baptistery in the world. This was very important as Christians from all over the world would travel to Rome to be baptized by the pope. These two Churches made the city of Rome very important in early Christianity because many Christian’s would travel from all over the world to see the relics in the Church of the holy cross and to be baptized in the Lateran.
Much of our time today was spend exploring the Roman Forum and the significance of the structures there. We see that the forum was a very public place that all the citizens would spend time in. Because the forum was such a public space, emperors would take advantage of it and use the space to demonstrate their power. For example we saw how Julius Caesar built shrines and large monuments with his name on it in front of those of the old republic. I presented on my site today which was the Portico of the Dei Consentes and described to the class how it’s restoration in the fourth century represented pagan resistance to the rise of Christianity in post-Constantine Rome. Finally, we saw the gigantic basilica Constantine built in the forum and furthered the conversation we had in class debating whether or not Emperor Constantine was truly Christian referencing the works of Macmullen and Eusebius. Seeing these amazing sites and presenting to my classmates in the old roman forum was an amazing experience and I’m thankful for Wabash College and Dr. Nelson and Dr. Hartnett for giving me the opportunity to see this city especially with all the knowledge we learned in the classroom leading up to the trip.