Legacy of Rome and Christianity
Christianity came into existence almost 2000 years ago. Christianity, like
Judaism, rose from obscurity to become the dominant religion of Western culture. Christianity also became the dominant faith of Rome at the end of fourth century A.D.
(Matthews 157.) Both Christianity and Rome influenced Europe in a number of ways.
Christianity soon became the greater part of the empire. Between 284 and 476, Roman civilization went through two stages. One stage involved Diocletian's reforms -- paganisms last pinnacle, and the second part, when the empire began to fall after Constantine's reign -- the vibrant Christian age. (Matthews, 174) After this last stage, both secular and Christian writers competed for the attention of educated Romans. Christian writers deemed Rome worth saving; they looked towards a new future and new hopes. Secular writers on the other hand, did not experiment with new styles and consequently, Christian literature dominated the era.
Some of the best-known writers that explore religious writings are Augustine and Dante. Augustine's Confessions is a spiritual autobiography. Augustine talks directly to God and he includes a constant sense of awe at the grace and mercy of God. (Norton, 1004) "…Since all good things are from You, O God, and from God is all my health… let Your truth assure me… Thy gift who hast mercy on whom Thou wilt and wilt have compassion on whom Thou wilt" (Norton, 1005, 1008, 1031) Augustine's writings are a clear example of the common literature of this time. This form of literature carried on into what became known as the High Middle Ages, where Dante was prominent. Dante's writings are another example of religious writings. His work blends both the story of The Aeneid of Virgil and the God of Christianity. Such lines as, "…to His law… by that God… Saint Peter…O Muses, o high genius, help me now… true praise of God… Charon" (Norton, 1306,1308, 1311) illustrate that Dante combines the two forms of literature, yet Dante still keeps this a Christian because this work chronicles Dante's journey through realms of Christian afterlife -- Hell, Limbo, and Heaven. (Matthews, 234)
The influence of Christianity in architecture can best be described in the context of the church -- which dominated art and architecture in the Middle Ages. (Matthews, 235)
When Constantine controlled Rome, the basic form of the church was called a basilica. (Matthews 180) While basilicas varied, the basic shape consisted of a long hallway, "with an apse, or curved wall at the eastern end. Two rows of parallel columns usually divided into a central area, or nave and two side aisles. (Matthews 180)
Later, in the High Middle Ages, the Cathedral emerged. Two styles of cathedral were the Romanesque and Gothic. Of these types, the Romanesque was the first. The Romanesque...