The Conversion of Constantine

A major turning point in Christian history occurred when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Whether this conversion was sincere or politically motivated, historians can only speculate. But the result was the end of persecution of Christians and the beginning of Christendom.

Constantine the Great
Colossal statue of Constantine in the Capitoline
Museum, Rome. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

In 313 Constantine issued the "Edict of Milan," which commanded official toleration of Christianity and other religions. He ordered that Sunday be granted the same legal rights as pagan feasts and that feasts in memory of Christian martyrs be recognized.

Constantine outlawed the barbaric gladiatorial shows (although they persisted until the fifth century) and forbade Jews to stone to death other Jews who chose to become Christians.

Contrary to popular belief, however, Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire. This was to be accomplished by Emperor Theodosius in 380.

Constantine's program was one of toleration only, and he continued to support both Christianity and paganism. In 314, the cross appeared on Constantine's coins, but so did the figures of Sol Invictus and Mars Convervator.

He raised his children as Christians and secured Christian clergy as person advisors, but retained the title pontifex maximus, the chief priest of the state cult, until his death.


  1. "Christianity." Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
  2. Justo Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, Vol 1.
  3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol 1.

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