Vision of the Cross

Roman Emperor Constantine as depicted by Raphael having his Vision of the Cross on October 27, 312
Roman Emperor Constantine as depicted by Raphael having his Vision of the Cross on October 27, 312

Historical Context

Constantine the Great's rule over the Roman Empire was impactful for many reasons, one of the most famous being his conversion to Christianity and promotion of the religion during his lifetime. His conversion to Christianity on his deathbed was preceded by the Edict of Milan in 313 which declared tolerance for the Christian faith across the Roman Empire. He also played an influential role in developing the Nicene Creed, the Christian statement of belief, in 325, and also ordered construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the supposed site of Jesus' tomb in Jerusalem, now the holiest site in Christianity.

This process of conversion is debated by historians, but some believe it began at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, one of the civil wars during Constantine's reign. The day before this battle, October 27, 312, Constantine is said to have had a vision of a cross in the sky in which "he saw with his own eyes in the heavens and a trophy of the cross arising from the light of the sun, carrying the message, In Hoc Signo Vinces" ("with this sign, you shall win"). Constantine's forces then arrived at the battle with symbols unfamiliar to his opponent, with the Emperor developing the Chi Rio symbol to symbolize Jesus Christ.

Whatever the case, Constatine's advocacy for the Christian faith marked a significant turning point in the religion's history, leading it to become the dominant religion in the Empire and subsequently across Europe for centuries to come.

Painting Info


Artist: Raphael
Location painted: Ponte Milvio, Rome, Roman Empire

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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