Christianity in Roman Britain

The Romans at first believed this was just another mystery cult but it differed in as much as it demanded exclusive worship unlike the other cults. The similarities to most of the other religions were reflected in the fact that Jesus had lived, been crucified and had been resurrected it was just another of the many religions which Roman tolerance endured. It was also open to all – men women and children, master and servant. In the early 4 th Century Christianity was adopted as the State religion by the Emperor Constantine. Other religions had no problem accepting the concept of a divine emperor and worship of his divinity. The Christians could not accept this and this refusal to worship the emperor was treason to the State. This led to persecution on political as well as religious reasons. Christians would hold services privately, often hiding their religious affiliation. There must have been a substantial following in Britain, confirmed by the fact that bishops from London, York and Colchester were available to attend a council of the church in Southern France in AD314. The Christian faith still had to compete with pagan gods

Archaeological Evidence
Nearly all the Christian objects and places of worship date to the 4 th century. Colchester – rectangular basilican building with an eastern apse in use from c350 to the 5 th century

Silchester – site of a font – building consisting of nave and aisles. Richborough – two buildings – one of timber, one of stone Icklingham – Baptistry, cemetery and lead tanks with Christian symbols Hinton St Mary , Frampton– domestic chapels built on country estates, mosaics depicting Christ and Chi-Rhos.

Lullingstone – domestic chapel with depictions of Chi-Rhos (The first two letters of the name of Christ in Greek) on its painted walls.

Cirencester – cryptogram scratched on the wall of a house in the 3 rd century Hoxne treasure, Suffolk – c AD 400 – gold and silver objects as well as 15000 coins – with Chi-Rho characters, monogram crosses and a phrase on a spoon “vivas in deo” (“may you live in God”)


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