Religious Items

One of the recent finds made by archaeologists is that of an edifice adjoining the Roman Forum at the base of the Palatine Hill, which was turned into a Christian church probably at the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century. The ruins have something more than this mere fact of their antiquity to arouse interest. Writing in Biblia (August), Professor T. M. Liuasay says:—

"The peculiar interest of this old church— Old St. Mary's it was called—consists, in my opinion, in the fact that the Christians of Rome in the end of the fifth century were able to secure this particular building for their public worship. This leads us to ask what the ancient edifice was, and why it was such a triumph for Christianity to secure it for a place of worship.

"The answer, briefly, is that the ancient pagan building, which, as the exacavations reveal, was used as a Christian church from the end of the fifth on to the eighth century at least, was originally the cradle of that peculiar Roman state cult which deified the ruler of the empire, and which demanded that every subject in the vast realm should worship him. To refuse was treason. Every collection of Acta Martyrum shows us that the last test of loyalty imposed on Christians when brought before Roman magistrates, was that they should sacrifice to the Divus, or to the living emperor. Refusal meant imprisonment, torture, death in the amphitheatre or by the executioner. The central shrine for this pagan state cult in Asia was Pergamos, and we have evidence of the abhorrence and dread with which this worship inspired all Christians when the author of the Apocalypse describes the city as that 'where Satan's seat is.' If Pergamos was so regarded, we can imagine the triumph of Roman Christians when they were at length able to take possession of what may be called the very cradle of the offensive cult."—The Literary Digest.

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September 19, 1901

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