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What do we mean by “Byzantine”?

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The word Byzantine refers to the period of time between when the Roman emperor, Constantine I, relocated his empire in 330 AD from Rome to Byzantium, which is modern Istanbul today, and ending in 1453 AD with the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire.

As you probably know, Christianity was persecuted under the Roman empire. That was true for the first 180 years of the church. But in 313 AD Constantine I legalized Christianity in what is known as the Edict of Milan. Because he was so sympathetic to Christianity, 13 years later, in 326 AD, Constantine’s mother, Empress Helena, arrived in Palestine to start building churches there.

There is one more important date. Fifty years later, in 380 AD, Christianity became the only authorized religion of the Roman Empire. Churches were built everywhere in the Roman world, especially in Palestine.

The global Byzantine Empire may have lasted for over 1000 years, but the empire didn’t hang onto Palestine for very long, because by 638 AD the Holy Land was entirely controlled by the Muslims. That means that the Byzantine Empire in Palestine lasted for only about 300 years. After this, many of the churches and monasteries were destroyed by either Persian or Muslim forces, and most weren’t rebuilt until the Catholic Crusaders arrived in 1095 AD.

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