State and Church relationships in the time of Constantine the Great.

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Momentous changes occurred both in the Church and in the political structure of the Roman Empire during the forth century. Christianity, once a persecuted minority faith, became the religion of the empire by the end of the century by Constantine's conversion in 312 CE. The relationship between the Church and the state was changed to reunite the once separated provinces to favour Christianity. Constantine achieved the unification of the East and West of the Roman Empire by 325 CE but his sincerity to the Christian Church is still doubt.


There are four classifications of Church/state relations, these are separation, church domination, state domination and collaboration. Separation can be defined where there is minimal interplay between Church and State authorities, with each operating in their own separate spheres, the sacred and the secular.

Church Domination is when religious authorities and concepts dominate the life and culture of the country to the exclusion of secular governments. In its most extreme form, it is known as theocracy, in which all laws and functions of the State are determined by absolute religious beliefs.

State Domination is when the state controls all aspects of life and denies the Church any role, even to the point of persecuting it and making its existence illegal. In extreme cases, believers have had their property confiscated, been denied the right to worship and have been executed for their beliefs

Collaboration can be defined as that at times there has been a mutual recognition and respect for the respective roles of Church and State in a given country or empire. In these circumstances, both institutions work together for a common purpose. This relationship is characterised by tolerance and acceptance of the role of both agencies to contribute to the common good of society


In 248 CE the Emperor Diocletian took power with army support. He was a soldier from Dalmatia and he massively reorganised the empire on a military basis to sort out the Roman Empire. In doing so, he split the Roman Empire into two provinces. This was an attempt to control and prevent enterprising governors from becoming too powerful and endeavour to over rule. Diocletian took over the West Side of the empire to include Rome while Maxentius controlled the East as co-emperor. For the first nineteen years in power, the persecution of the church was not depicted in his policy. Because of this Christian numbers prospered to a high 20%. It was not until the infiltration of Christianity in high places (marginally through governors' wives) and in high command in the army that caused disturbance to Diocletian. Diocletian insisted that all the army had to make sacrifices and this immediately caused problems for the Christians. Many persecutions took place with Christians and Diocletian has been named as being the most severe persecutor. Not only were Christians being persecuted but Diocletian ordered Churches to be destroyed, the Christian books seized and to arrest the clergy. The official state religion was known as the cult of the emperor. State domination over the church became evident as Diocletian controlled all aspects of life and denied the Christian Church of any role. It could also be seen that the relationship between the two parties was separation as the interaction between the Church and the State was at a bare minimum with each operating in their separate spheres. The Church's rulings were limited to spiritual matters only and were given no place to worship in the affairs of government.


In 306 CE Constantine was declared as Emperor. Constantine was raised in Rome while Diocletian was Emperor and learnt the benefits of having one absolute authority figure. With this is mind Constantine decided that once again, the Roman Empire should be a unifying Empire and he to be the one absolute authority figure....
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