The Temple of Apollo at Didyma and Old Saint Peter’s Basilica

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Many modern day Christian beliefs and practices were taken from early pagan practices. In fact, the sacred Greek Temple Of Apollo, Didyma (modern day Turkey) and the Christian Old Saint Peter’s Basilica on Vatican Hill, Rome were similar in history, religion, and intended function as a place of worship. The structural aspects of the two have few similarities, however, that is not to say that the pagan influence on the church building was nonexistent.

The Temple of Apollo at Didyma was designed by two Greek architects, Paionios of Ephesos, and Dafhnis of Miletos. Construction was started in 313 B.C. and was worked on sporadically over the next 500 years. The temple was never completed, mostly because of size and cost. The original Plan was to include 120 columns of over 64 feet in hight (which would have made it the tallest Greek temple) and a base circumference of 6 feet. Surviving records tell us that each column cost 40,000 drachmas (a Greek currency). The average worker made 2 drachmas a day. If the builders had the financial backing of an empire, the temple probably would have been completed.

Constantine Did have the financial backing of a rich empire, as he was Emperor of Rome. Soon after he outlawed the imprisonment and killing of christians he ordered a grand church to be built. Old Saint Peter’s Basilica was built between 320 and 333 A.D. It was immediately recognized as a place of high religious importance (and still is today).

Constantine chose an unusual and controversial location for his church. It was built on Vatican Hill over a pagan Cemetery. This was highly controversial because the defacement of a grave was a serious criminal offense in rome, often carrying death as the punishment. But Constantine was Emper...

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...ed view of the altar) and in part the desire to separate the new religion from the old pagan ones. A major structural difference of the Basilica was the entrance to the worship space. The entrance to the Temple was an open passage on the side that led into the main isle. The entrance to the Basilica was though a narthex, or vestibule. This led into the nave, main room, with a length of 300 feet. At the far end was the altar located in the apse and under the chancel arch which separated the apse from the transept.

In conclusion, the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica was designed to be a visual separation from pagan temples and thus the old pagan religion. However, the architects could not erase the influence paganism already had on Christianity. Paganism melded with Christianity, forming a religion where the new was held as sacred and the old was dismissed.

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