Florida State Council

Knights of Columbus

International Academic Congress – April, 2012

"Constantine the Great - the Roots of Europe" is the title of an International Academic Congress that was held in the Vatican from April 18 to 21, 2012. The event was organized by the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences to mark the 1700th anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.

CONSTANTINE THE GREAT: RELIGION AND THE STATE AT THE DAWN OF EUROPE

This Congress is the first of two, the second of which will be held in Milan in 2013 for the 1700th anniversary of the promulgation of the Edict of Milan, which established freedom of religion in the Roman Empire and put an end to the persecution of certain religious groups, particularly Christians.

One key area will be the conversion and Baptism of Constantine himself and his attitude towards Christians following the battle of the Milvian Bridge, which took place on October 28, 312 and led to the death of his rival Maxentius. Contemporary and later Christian historians, influenced by the narrative of Eusebius of Caesarea, saw Constantine's victory as the result of divine intervention.

Fr. Ardura pointed out that "from a purely strategic-military viewpoint the battle was not very important, but it soon became the founding symbol of the new world which came into being when Constantine found Christianity. Indeed, ... the era of imperial persecution against Christians was about to come to an end, giving way to the evangelization of the entire empire and molding the profile of western Europe and the Balkans; a Europe which gave rise to the values of human dignity, distinction and cooperation between religion and the State, and freedom of conscience, religion and worship. Of course these things would need many centuries to come to maturity, but they all existed 'in nuce' in the Constantine revolution and therefore in the battle of the Milvian Bridge".

For her part, Claire Sotinel explained that attentive and critical historical analysis "facilitates our understanding of what happened following the victory at the Milvian Bridge, helping us in the twenty-first century to reflect on important issues such as the interaction between religions and political power, the creation of religious pluralism, and the possibility of coexistence among different religions".