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The Battle over Constantine's Remains:
Christian History at Its Worst

This page is the second story in "The Fall of the Church" series. If you have not read the introduction there, you may want to, then come back here.

This is the story of the brawl that resulted when one church in Constantinople tried to move Constantine's remains away from the building belonging to another church. Yes, there were two churches in Constantine in the 340's when this event occurred.

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During the reign of the emperor Constantius (337 – 361), a man name Macedonius became the bishop of Constantinople, the most important see (area of a bishop's oversight) in the empire. He was an Arian, one of those who opposed the recent decision of the council of Nicea, and the city was divided over his appointment.

Bust of Constantine the GreatConstantine the Great

Besides the unrest over his reign as bishop, Macedonius had another concern. The church building that housed the coffin and emperor Constantine's remains was ready to fall down. He wanted to move the remains, but there were many in the city that regarded the Constantine's bones as relics. They did not want them disturbed.

Macedonius, for reasons we will never know, decided that it was worth moving the coffin. Without meetings or announcements, he ordered it to be done.

Those who opposed the move were furious. They marched down to the new church building to protest, but they were met by an equal number of the supporters of Macedonius. It took very little time for the encounter to turn violent.

The result was horrifying. It's related here by the historian Socrates Scholasticus:

[They] attacked one another with great fury, and great loss of life was occasioned. The churchyard was filled with gore, and the well in the yard overflowed with blood, which ran into the adjacent portico, and from there into the very street. (Ecclesiastical History II:38)

Yikes!

Next story: The Alexandrians try to kill Bishop George

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