The Religious Conversions Of King Clovis I And Emperor Constantine I

1000 words - 4 pages

Throughout history, there have been many instances of leaders converting to new religions, but none have had an impact such as the conversion of Constantine I, nor as ground-breaking as that of Clovis I. Constantine I was born in the year 280. During his reign as emperor of the Roman Empire, the state was falling apart. 1 He was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. He called the Council of Nicea in 325 to resolve conflicts arising between the Arian Christians and the Athansian Christians. 2 This resulted in the canonization of Athansian Christianity, to which Constantine I converted his empire. 3Clovis I was born in the year 466, he was the king of the Franks and ruled Gaul for 30 years. 4 It is unknown when he converted to Christianity, however he was baptised in 496. Clovis I was the first Germanic king to convert to Christianity, and while he did not convert his entire state, his conversion was a turning point in Frankish and European history. Behind any conversion, is a reason. For Constantine I, it was an empire coming apart at the seams. For Clovis, it was a need to be more palatable to a mostly Christian populous.

While Constantine I ruled the Roman Empire, Christianity became the overriding faith of Rome. 5 While Constantine I had been exposed to Christianity during childhood through his mother, Helena, he was never a true believer. Many Christian sources write that Constantine received a revelation in 312 before the Battle of Milvian Bridge. According to these sources, Constantine I looked up towards the sky before the battle and saw a cross, and under it the words "Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα" (in this sign you shall conquer). It is written that Constantine then ordered his
troops to paint the Christian symbol of the cross on their shields and due to the Christian God, they were victorious. 6 This claim is highly disputed for a number of reasons, including the supremely unchristian act of approving the execution of his own wife and son, and not being baptised until he lay on his deathbed. 7 In addition to simple inconsistencies in his behaviour, there were larger indications of his indifference. Long before he became emperor, Constantine was very aware of the spread of the Christian faith. Many other religions were accepted in the Roman Empire, as they were local and, if the emperor was worshipped, they posed no threat. Christianity was spread through Rome, and its followers refused to worship the emperor. 8 Instead of trying to be rid of Christianity, Constantine I saw the opportunity to use the widespread religion to unite his empire. His conversion was a juncture for early Christianity.9 It is sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan legalizing Christian worship. 10 The emperor became a patron of the Church and set an example for the position of the emperor within the Church. Constantine I is revered as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental...

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