File spoon-archives/avant-garde.archive/avant-garde_2001/avant-garde.0105, message 19

Subject: QA002: the PSA of CRI
Date: Sun, 27 May 2001 20:08:24 -0400

QUAESTIO ABSTRUSA 002: The Paradigm Shifting Architectures of Closely
Related Imperials

The second edition of QUAESTIO ABSTRUSA is subtitled "The Paradigm Shifting
Architectures of Closely Related Imperials" and focuses on the architectures
manifested throughout the Roman Empire from the reign of Diocletian through
to the reign of Julian. This period from 284 AD to 363 AD encompasses the
Constantinian dynasty of rulers, which began with Constantius I, the western
Caesar of Diocletian's tetrarchy and the father of Constantine I (the
Great), and ended with Julian (the Apostate), who was one of Constantius I's
grandsons, the son of one of Constantine I's half brothers, and the husband
of Constantine I's youngest daughter. The name of Constantine I's youngest
daughter was Helena, and the name of Constantius I's youngest daughter was
Eutropia, and both of these imperial daughters were named for their
respective grandmothers, who were essentially the matriarchs of the
Constantinian dynasty of both rulers and builders.

The elder Eutropia was the wife of Maximian, the western Augustus who
co-ruled the Empire with Diocletian. Eutropia had three children, the
eldest, Theodora, was from a previous marriage, while Maxentius and Fausta
were fathered by Maximian. Theodora became the second wife of Constantius I,
Maxentius became the usurpative Augustus of Italy and North Africa, and
Fausta became the second wife of Constantine I. Interestingly, Eutropia's
blood line is the most consistent throughout the Constantinian dynasty since
she is Julian (the Apostate's) oldest direct imperial relation.

The elder Helena was the first wife of Constantius I, and the mother of
Constantine I. Helena, who was not of aristocratic birth, was divorced from
Constantius I when he was raised to the rank of western Augustus and in the
process married the imperial daughter Theodora. In time, however, Helena
herself was raised to the rank of Augusta during the reign of her son
Constantine I. Ultimately, Helana was raised to the rank of Christian saint.

Despite intricate familial relations -- Eutropia became the mother-in-law to
both Constantius I and Constantine I (father and son), and Eutropia's
daughter Theodora is the main reason for Helena's divorce -- and bloody
inter-familial power struggles -- Eutropia's husband and son, Maximian and
Maxentius respectively, both died due to the rise in power of Helena's son,
Constantine I -- both women lived to be octogenarians within the imperial
household, and indeed appear to have bonded in their mutual devotion to the
task of establishing a new imperial Christian architecture. Imperially
sanctioned Christian building began in Rome under the rule of Constantine I
as early as November 312, and in the Vita Constantini, the Life of
Constantine written by the bishop Eusebius during the end of Constantine I's
lifetime, we learn that both Helena and Eutropia were actively tending to
holy sites in Palestine in the later half of the 320s. Helena is credited
with building the first Christian basilicas at the sites of Christ's
Nativity and Ascension, while Eutropia is responsible for the restoration of
the holy site at Mamre (today's Hebron), where an angel of God first
appeared to Abraham. Thus, in turn, it is the architectural activity of
Helena and Eutropia that positions the very center of the "paradigm shifting
architectures of closely related imperials."

The architectures of the Roman Empire executed from the reign of Diocletian
through to the reign of Julian come to represent the extraordinary
transition of a Pagan architecture into a Christian architecture. That this
enormous transformation occurred within the rule of one family only further
compounds the large scale historicity of the event. Both the Constantinian
dynasty and the architecture it produced present a gigantic puzzle with many
diverse pieces, some of which fit nicely together, some of which fit
strangely together, and some of which are missing entirely. The last piece
of the puzzle is also no doubt the most ironic. Julian (the Apostate), who
reigned as emperor from 361 to 363, renounced his Christianity and  briefly
revived imperial Paganism. Moreover, Julian is the last ruler in history to
attempt a rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.

Stephen Lauf

QUAESTIO ABSTRUSA 002: The Paradigm Shifting Architectures of Closely
Related Imperials will be featured as a work-in-progress at beginning June 2001. Many of the puzzle pieces
will be presented, although how the pieces fit together will remain somewhat
undisclosed. Release of the finished work on compact disk is scheduled for
18 August 2001, the feast of St. Helena and the 2,750th odd anniversary of
one of ancient Rome's oldest historical events, namely the rape of the
Sabine women.

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