Following the Birth of Christ the Roman conquests around the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, as well as in Britain, brought new aspects of craftsmanship to bear on all art forms. Although the birth of the Christian religion occurred in a province of the Roman Empire, it was unheralded in writing until the second century. At that time Roman historian Tacitus made the remark that in Judaea ‘under Tiberius all was quiet’. It was during the first century that Roman Emperor Augustus (Octavian) closed the doors of the Temple of Janus to mark the return of peace for the first time in 200 years. This allowed a greater ease of communication and an expansion of trade. As well it hastened the rapid spread of the word telling about a single, loving and forgiving God. Followers of a Jew named Jesus, who had been crucified in Jerusalem espoused the ‘good news’.
They believed that Jesus was the Christ, literally the ‘anointed one’ (from the Gk. Translation of the Hebrew word Messiah). Now known as Christianity, the original ‘followers of the way’ at first kept their worship hidden in the catacombs at Rome or in the houses of the faithful. It was in the ancient city of Antioch (nr modern city of Antakya, Turkey) about 240 ACE that the term Christian was first used. Basically the first Christians were waiting for the second coming of Christ, which they believed would happen in their own lifetime so it explains why there was no immediate attempt to formalize their worship, or adopt a manner of dress to celebrate. The organised Christian Church gradually emerged after three centuries of, more or less, oppressed existence when an edict was issued at Milan by the sole Roman Emperor of the West, Constantine in February 313. This document granted civil rights and religious toleration to Christians throughout the Roman Empire. Constantine chose the Roman basilica as a building in which Christians could gather together to conduct their worship.