Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums (Criminal History of Christianity)
A gold multiple of ‘Unconquered Constantine’
with Sol Invictus, struck in 313 AD.
Constantine as saviour, deliverer and vicar of God
Rudolf Hernegger says he does not know any other historical personage ‘whose influence has remained so unchanged for seventeen centuries’ and underlines, to our understanding, that ‘for the past 1,700 years the Church has deserved the epithet of ‘Constantinian’.
The predecessors of Constantine feared the Christians and some of them fought them. Instead, he favoured them and thus won them for his cause, to the point that he called himself ‘bishop for foreign affairs’ (episkopos ton ektós) of the Church, or as Grégoire ironized, ‘the gendarme of the Church’. In effect, Constantine placed the clergy at his service and imposed his will on it.
‘He soon dominated the episcopate as he dominated his official and demanded unconditional obedience to public decrees, even when they intervened in the internal affairs of the Church’ (Franzen, Roman Catholic). The Church gained influence but lost independence, and some people, already during the 4th century, began to see it. The Church became part of the Empire, instead of the Empire being a part of the Church. The bishops owed gratitude to the emperor, their protector, who had favoured them so much.
And they obeyed Constantine: He was the master, he convened the councils and even decided on questions of faith, however confused his own Christology was (but… which Christology is not?). Constantine imposed theological formulas which he and his successors commanded to respect. He and they made the Church of the State, ‘where the word of the emperor, without becoming the highest commandment, nevertheless had a decisive weight and not only in matters of external order but also in matters of doctrine’ (Aland).
Although Constantine, during misfortunes, continued to consult the signs of the sky and the viscera of the animals, he made all his family Christian and ended up receiving also the baptism, calling himself a saviour appointed by God, sent by the Lord and a man from God. He declared that he owed everything he had to ‘the greatest God’; ordered that honours be performed as ‘representative of Christ’ (vicarios Christi) and that he be buried as the ‘thirteenth Apostle’. Pagans and Christians were to greet him with genuflection, of which perhaps only the bishops were dispensed. And anything he had touched was also sacred. (Sanctus and sanctitas, well-known notions of paganism, were preached about imperial dignity.)
The central point of the new capital of Constantine, which was named after him, was the court: of exaggerated luxury, in the Oriental manner, built ‘iubente Deo’, that is, by divine order, on a land four times more extensive than the old Byzantium, and with the help of forty thousand Goth operatives.
With the founding of this ‘new Rome’, the former capital of the empire was definitively relegated to a second place; the influence of the Hellenic East was reinforced and the conflicts between the Eastern and Western Church became more acute. Constantine, on the other hand, surpassed the old emperors when he named his palace, a prototype of the primitive basilica and ‘house of the king’ not ‘encampment’ (castra) like the former houses, but temple (domus divina) in the image and likeness of the celestial throne room. The throne room was shaped like a basilica, as if it were a sanctuary, and a ceremonial of strong ecclesiastical flavour was created, which later the Byzantine emperors intensified, if possible.
The Eastern Church has Constantine as the ‘thirteenth apostle’. He and his mother are considered among the saints, and many Greek churches have his image and celebrate with great pomp his festival on May 21.