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1. History of churches

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER IX. Of Churches and Sacred Places

1. History of churches

Christians in different ages have called the places where they were wont to meet together for religious worship by a great variety of names. The primitive appellation was, according to some, *, 1 Cor. 11:18, 20, 22. So it was used by Ignatius, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, etc. To this may be added the names of * dominicum, Domus Dei, etc., * templum, etc., the Lord's house, house of the church, house of prayer, temple, etc. These names became familiar in the third and fourth centuries.

The German kirche, from which is derived the Scotch kirk, and English church, came into use in the eighth century. The original of the word is *, the Lord's house. churches have also been entitled *, in honor of the holy martyrs, and for the same reason particular churches have been called by the names of different saints and martyrs, St. Paul's, St. Peter's, etc. The following names have also, at different times, and for various reasons, been given to christian churches: tituli *. concilia, conciliabula, conventicula, casae, *, columba, corpus Christi, *, and many others.

The primitive Christians were compelled to unite in the worship of God wherever they could meet without molestation, – in private houses, in the open fields, in desert and solitary places, in caves and dens of the earth. In view of these circumstances, many have supposed that no sacred edifices were set apart for the worship of God in the first and second centuries. But there is satisfactory evidence of the existence of such churches in the year 202, and that they were allowed to appropriate to themselves such places of worship, under the emperors, from A. D. 222 to 235, and again from 260 to 300. From this time, the evidence of the existence of christian churches becomes full and satisfactory. Dioclesian directs his rage especially against them, ordering them by his edict, A. D. 303, to be razed to the earth, of which more than forty had already been erected in Rome. Optatus mentions that in his time there were forty or more large churches in Rome. – De Schism. Donat. lib. 2. c. 4.

After the persecution of Dioclesian, under Constantine and his successors, the demolished churches were rebuilt, and such as had been closed were again opened." Pagan temples were, in some instances, converted into christian churches; but they were usually destroyed, as not suited for public worship. Churches in great numbers were erected, in a style of magnificence before unknown, in Constantinople, in Jerusalem, and throughout the cities of Palestine, and solemnly dedicated to the worship of God. This religious rite was first introduced by Constantine. 

In his zeal for building churches, Justinian I. far surpassed all others, and throughout his long reign, from A.D. 527 to 565, made this the great business of his life. But his chief care he expended in building the magnificent and colossal church of St. Sophia at Constantinople. Such was the splendor of this work, that at the consecration of it he exclaimed, "I have surpassed thee, O Solomon."* The perpendicular height, from the summit of the grand arch to the pavement of this edifice, was one hundred and eighty feet. Some idea of this great work may be obtained from the number of ministers and attendants who were appointed by the decree of the emperor for the service of this church. They were as follows: sixty presbyters, one hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety subdeacons, one hundred and ten readers, twenty-five singers, one hundred door-keepers; making a retinue of five hundred and twenty-five ministers and attendants! The value of 40,000 pounds of silver was expended in ornamenting the altar and the parts adjacent. The entire cost was nearly $5,000,000. 

After the death of Justinian, the zeal for building churches greatly declined, and few of any notoriety were erected from the fifth to the eighth century. The arts of architecture, sculpture and painting, had fallen into disrepute, and the churches which were erected were of an inferior character, devoid, in a great degree, of ornament and taste.

The Byzantine, or ancient Gothic style of architecture, was introduced under Theodoric, in the beginning of the sixth century; and in this and the following centuries, many churches of this order were built in Italy, Spain, France, England, and Germany. From the seventh to the twelfth century, the resources of the christian church were expended chiefly on cloisters, monasteries, and other establishments suited to the ascetic life, to which Christians of those ages generally addicted themselves.

The vast cathedrals of Europe, in the style of Modern Gothic, are the product of the middle ages, and some of them date back even to the thirteenth century. About this time ecclesiastical architecture attained to the height of its perfection. After the introduction of the pointed arch, at the beginning of this period, buildings were erected which exceeded, in size and architectural beauty, all which had hitherto been dedicated to the services of the church. The style of architecture which obtained at this time has been usually denominated Gothic, or new Gothic; but it may more properly claim the title of German, or English. It prevailed in Germany, the Netherlands, England, and Denmark; and from those countries it was introduced into Italy, France, and Spain. Some suppose that Saxony is the country to which its origin may be traced.

Some antiquaries regard the beautiful architecture of this period as a sudden effect produced by the invention of the pointed arch; while others contend that it was the result of a gradual improvement in the art during the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Certain, however, it is, that this style of building, after having attained its perfection more or less rapidly in the thirteenth century, prevailed almost exclusively during the fourteenth and fifteenth.

Opinion is are divided also upon a question relating to the quarter from which this style was originally derived. Some persons suppose that it was brought from the Arabians or Saracens, at the time of the Crusades, or from the same people, in Spain and Sicily, at a still earlier date. And it seems likely that some of its forms, at least, may have originated in this quarter. Others refer the design to the talent and invention of one or two great masters, whom they suppose to have flourished in the early part of the century, but without being able to say who they were. While others again consider that we are indebted for the improvement to the societies of masons, which existed from a very early period, and were greatly encouraged by popes and emperors during the middle ages. They had lodges in England and on the Continent; some place their beginning in Germany, others in France, and others in England under the Saxon kings. These architectural corporations must not be confounded with the modern freemasons.

Early in the eleventh century began the system of raising money for ecclesiastical buildings by the sale of indulgences. The example of this practice was set by Pontius, bishop of Aries, in the year 1016. According to Morinus, (De Sacram. Poenit. lib. vii. c. 14, 20,) the French bishops professed, during the twelfth century, to remit a third or fourth part of penance to persons who should contribute a certain sum of money towards the building or restoring of a place of worship. In this way Mauritius, bishop of Paris, built the splendid cathedral of Notre Dame, and four abbeys; for which, however, he incurred the censure of some of his contemporaries. In later times the example was frequently followed at Rome; and it is well known that the collection of Peter's pence, and the sale of indulgences in raising money for the building of St. Peter's, was one of the proximate causes of the German reformation.

Euseb, h. e. lib. vii. c. 22: Plinins, Ep. lib. xix. ep. 97: Pertschens. K. Histoire, Th. i. S. 416.
(No tag #1 appears in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)

Asseinani, Bibl. Or. torn. i. p. 387: Euseb. h. e. lib. ii. c. 1: Faber, De lemplor. apud Christian, antiq. dubia in Poll's Sylloge Comment. Theol. vol. iii. p. 334–37: Schrockh's chr. K. Gesch. Th. iv. S. 17, 18.

Lamprid. Vit. Alex. Severi. c. 49: Mosheim, De eccl. ante Constant. M. p. 463.

Euseb. h. e. lib. vii. c. 13.

Tertull. De idol. c. 7: Adv. Valent. c. 3: De coron. mil. c. 3: De piidic. e. 4: Cyprian, ep. 55. 33: Gregor. Thaumat. epist. can. c. 11: Gregor. Naz. Vit. Gregor. Thaum. Opp. iii: Dionys. AI. ep. can. e. 2: Lactam. Instit. div. lib. v. c. 11: De mot. persec. c. 12. 15: Ambrose, in Epis. 4. etc.

Euseb. h. e. lib. viii. c. 2, 13.

Euseb. h. e. lib. x. c. 5. c. 2: De Vit. Constant. M. lib. iii. c. 64, 65.

Socrat. h. e. lib. iv. c. 24: Evagr. h. e. lib. i. c. 16: Cod. Theodos. 16. tit. X. 1. 16, 19, 25.

Ciampini, c. 2–22: Euseb. Vit. Constant. M. lib. iii. c. 25–40, 41–58: lib. iv. c. 57–60: Socrat. h. e. lib. i. c. 16: ii. c. 16, 43: Sozom. h. e. lib. xi. c. 4, 26: lib. iv. c. 26.

Euseb. h. e. lib. x. c. 3.

Gibbon's Rome, vol. iii. p. 42. N. V. ed.

Muratori, Scripior. rer. Italic, torn. i. P. 2. p. 576: Manso's Gescbicbte des Ostgothischen Reichs in Italien, S. 137, 167, 396.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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