Arch of Constantine (Arco di Constantino in Italian) is located between the
Coliseum and the
Palatine Hill. It was erected in
315 AD to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over Emperor Maxentius at
the Battle of Milvian Bridge in October of 312 AD. The well-preserved triumphal
arch stands over 68 feet high and almost 85 feet wide. It contains three
archways. It is richly decorated, but actually contains parts and statues from
earlier works and buildings (a common practice during the time).
The Arch of Constantine is special for several reasons. First, it is the latest
of the three triumphal arches in Rome (Arch
of Severus and Arch of Titus
being the others). Second, it is a reminder of a civil war between two Roman
emperors, not a war against a foreign enemy. Lastly and probably the most
recognized, it is a symbol for Christianity. Constantine was the first Roman
emperor to proclaim Christianity.
Legend has it that Constantine had a dream before the battle of which he saw a
vision from Christ. He contributed his victory to the power of God, and
converted to Christianity. Afterwards, he declared an end to the persecution of
Christians and imposed Christianity as the preferred religion of the land. This
has remained until present day with Christianity being the overwhelmingly
predominant religion in Italy, practiced in the form of Catholicism. The
triumphal arch of Emperor Constantine marks the beginning of the religious shift
throughout the land.