The foundation of the Orders is attributed to Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome and Eusebius Bishop of Caesarea. The Rituals of the Orders recognise the pivotal role they had and the impact and spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, the Cross as The Symbols of our Faith and It’s revelation to Constantine, the Sepulchre as a symbol of a spiritual and eternal life through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ and the belief in an Eternal Holy and Indivisible Tri-Une God.

Constantine 1st 280AD to 337AD

On the 27th of February in 280AD in Naissus, modern day Nis in Yugoslavia, Constantius and his wife Helena had a son whom they called Constantine. His achievements were to have a profound impact upon the Roman Empire and the spread and influence of Christianity on Western culture in general that continues today.

Constantius was a successful army officer. In 293AD he was appointed one of the Junior Emperors in the Tetrarchy led by Diocletian. He was based in Trier, with responsibility for Gaul and Britain. The price he had to pay for his promotion was twofold. He had to divorce his wife Helena and marry Theodora who was the step daughter of Maximilian, the other Senior Emperor. Maximilians son was Maxentius whom Constantine would defeat in his bid for power. This marriage therefore made them brothers in law . Constantine was sent to Nicomedia in the East, to the court of Diocletian. Marriages between the ruling families secured authority, position, wealth and succession, while placing relatives at other courts as hostages thus ensuring loyalty. It is surmised that while at the court of Diocletian, Constantine first met Eusebius and would have seen at first hand the persecution of the Christians, in 303AD,by Diocletian and gained some knowledge of Christianity. While in Nicomedia he was successful in a number of military campaigns, and his reputation as a Commander had begun.

In 305AD Diocletian and Maximilian resigned and Galerius, the remaining Senior Emperor, engineered the succession of two of his allies to the vacancies, overlooking both Constantine and Maxentius, who by custom should have been appointed. The seeds of future conflict were laid. This was a very dangerous time for Constantine as he remained in the East as a hostage to Galerius. His father requested him to be sent to Britain to assist in the campaigns there. The story goes that during a night of heavy drinking; Constantine managed to persuade Galerius to let him leave, which he did immediately during the night before Galerius could awaken and change his mind.In 306AD after a successful campaign in Britain against the Picts, his father became ill and sadly died in York. Immediately his father’s legions proclaimed him Emperor in the West and Constantine became leader of the largest Roman army in the Empire, with authority over Spain, Gaul and Britain. He travelled to his capital Trier to fortify the town, he reorganised the army and showed a popular and benevolent attitude to Christians and the local population in general.

Meanwhile, rivalries and feuds had developed between the remaining Emperors and other claimants to the title. The promotion to Emperor of Constantine was not recognised. His step brother Maxentius, jealous of his popularity declared himself Emperor with the assistance of the retired Emperor, his father Maximilian. Maximilian went to Trier to enlist the aid of Constantine in exchange for which, he offered the hand of his daughter Fausta in marriage and recognised him as Emperor in the West. Constantine accepted although he was already married to Minerva, whom he divorced. Constantine avoided supporting Maxentius by immediately setting off to campaign in Britain. His popularity increased further by his refusal to take part in conflicts in Italy.
Maxentius emerged victorious from the rivals for power and in 310AD declared that Constantine was dead and himself Emperor in the West, with Licinius, the remaining Emperor, in control of the East. Incensed Constantine moved on Rome. Such was his popularity that he was welcomed with open gates by the Cities of Italy, overcoming the armies of Maxentius as he advanced. He forged an alliance with the Emperor Lucinius, offering his sister Constantia in marriage. He then defeated Maximilian, the father of Maxentius and caused him to commit suicide. Maxentius was naturally enraged and vowed to avenge his father.
During his advance legend tells us that Constantine ordered the Cross to be painted on the shields of his army. In one account he is said to have had a dream in which he was told to adopt the Heavenly sign of God ( The Chi Rho )   In another Eusebius tells us he actually saw the Cross in the morning sun and the inscription — In Hoc Signo Vinces–In This Sign-Conquer–. Eusebius relates that the next night Constantine had a vision of Christ who told him to take up the Cross as a sign of victory. At this point it is related that Christian soldiers came forward and declared their Faith. Constantine caused the sign of the Cross to be adopted by his army and a standard, the Labarum, carried before them into battle.

Maxentius fortified Rome but made a tactical error in not remaining in the City to withstand the siege. Instead he destroyed all the bridges over the river Tiber except the stone Milvion and built a boat pontoon bridge between Rome and the village of Saxa Ruba. He then lined up his superior forces on the river bank facing those of Constantine. The battle commenced on 28th October 312AD,the sixth anniversary of his accession as Emperor. The superior generalship of Constantine soon enabled him to overcome his enemy, whose only retreat was over the Milvion and the pontoon bridges. Many were slaughtered and many more drowned when the pontoon collapsed. Maxentius was drowned his body recovered and beheaded.

Constantine entered Rome and strengthened his position and popularity by reaffirming the role of Senate and pardoning those supporters of Maxentius, at the same time removing all outward symbols of his defeated opponent. He returned property confiscated by Maxentius, recalled exiles and released political prisoners. Maxentius was styled as a tyrant and Constantine as liberator. A statue of Constantine was erected holding a Cross inscribed with the words“ In Hoc Signo Vinces“.Having firmly established himself as Emperor in the West, Constantine met with Licinius and agreed the edict of Milan in 313AD. This granted full tolerance to Christianity and all religions, returned property seized during persecutions and condemned past coercions. In 320AD Licinius recommenced the persecution of Christians, repudiating the agreement of the edict of Milan he had made with Constantine. This betrayal led to civil war between them and in 324AD Constantine defeated Licinius in a series of battles and sent him into exile. Constantine was now sole Emperor of the East and West.

Having established his supremacy and rule as sole Emperor, he began to re-focus the centre of the Empire in the East at Byzentium. The reason for this was twofold. First being the continuing threat to the Empire from the Persians in the East and the station of Legions there countered that threat.Second the Bosphorous was now the important crossroads for the great trade routes from North and South , East and West. Byzantium was a rich, cultured and pagan City. Constantine replaced pagan Idols with Christian symbols and built “The Church of the Holy Apostles” on the site of the pagan Temple to Aphrodite.

Ritual tells us how Constantine brought this transfer about. He is said to have selected the ancient Greek City of Troy for his capital , when an eagle swooped down and carried the measuring line off in the direction of Byzantium. Considering it a special sign from heaven, he proceeded to build the new centre of the Empire there. In his honour it was renamed Constantinople.
The reason for this allegorical story was to appease the Roman people who had a great attachment to Rome as the centre of the Roman world. However Constantine knew that they believed in heavenly signs and Portends. Thus the Eagle became the Roman Eagle and its flight to the East the wishes of the Gods.
Constantine promoted a policy of religious tolerance. Citizens were allowed freedom of worship without fear of persecution. This was probably a practical step to avoid religious conflict, promote peace and harmony in the Empire and for him not to be seen to commit to any in particular. In line with this his Triumphal Arch in Rome had pagan deities only. The city of Constantinople was consecrated by a pagan priest and throughout his reign his coinage never had any Christian symbolism. His statues and Labarum Standard however bore the Christian Chi Rho.

His greatest legacy was his promotion of Christianity which stimulated its spread throughout the Empire. He returned confiscated Christian property and Churches, released, pardoned and promoted those Christians who had been imprisoned and encouraged building of new Churches. He actively involved himself in settling religious disputes for he knew these might lead to civil unrest and disorder. An example of this is his involvement in settling the Churches conflict with Donatism and Arianism in the council of Nicocea in 325AD which lead to profession of Fundamental Christian belief in the Nicean creed which we still use today.

It is difficult to know for sure when he was converted to Christianity, one suggestion is that he adopted it as a young man, perhaps influenced by his mother Helena who was a Christian. He may have accepted the Faith gradually over years as he came into contact with other Christians such as Eusebius. The tradition is that he adopted it and was baptised on his death bed.

He fell ill around Easter time in 337AD. He travelled to Helenopolis and prayed in the Church his mother Helena had built to Lucian the Apostle. There he realised he was dying and attempted to return to Constantinople. He only got as far as Nicomedia, there he summoned the Bishops and asked to be baptised by Eusebius Bishop of Nicomedia. He died on the 22 of May 337AD in a suburban Villa called Achyron and was buried; flanked by statues of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, a Church he had caused to be erected. This was a literal expression of his own conviction that he was a successor to the Evangelists “The 13th Apostle”. He had devoted his life and office to the spreading of Christianity. Eusebius concurred that his reign was a fulfilment of divine providence. Constantine himself would not have objected if he had been told he had changed the fortunes of Christianity and altered the whole history of the Western World.

Research by V Ill Kt Dr Keith Lowson P G H Chanc