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The Constantinian period: appearance of the Latin basilica. From the peace of the church, places of worship, now public, rose everywhere, sometimes architecturally daring, esp. when the emperor was financing the construction, as at Rome episcopal church of the Lateran, martyrial churches of St. Peter in the Vatican and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls or in the Holy Land reliquary churches of the holy places of Christ’s life at Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Hence the hypothesis of the sudden birth of a new type called the Latin or Constantinian basilica, epitomized by St. Peter’s, known to us from plans and elevations made at the time of its destruction and replacement by the present building and from partial excavations conducted inside the Confessio, or by St. John Lateran, whose structures are partly preserved despite modernization.

The first basilica with an exact date, 324, is that partly excavated in the 19th c. at Orlansville now El Asnam on the Chliff in Algeria: it has five aisles but is provided with two apses at the extremities of the central aisle, though these are not contemporary; so it does not represent the ideal type see N. Duval, Basiliques   deux absides. Another very old monument, built by a Bishop Theodore who attended the Council of Arles in 314, but not precisely datable, is the episcopal church of Aquileia in N Italy, consisting of two rectangular rooms, parallel and divided into three aisles by a small number of supports but with no apse: here too the type of building is not the classical basilica, and the two-roomed complex raises the problem of the origin and raison d’ªtre of double churches see below. Also attributed to the Constantinian period are many churches associated with the mausoleum of a martyr or a member of the imperial family in the Roman cemeteries: S. Agnese near S. Costanza, S. Lorenzo, SS. Pietro e Marcellino, the Basilica Apostolorum beneath the present S. Sebastiano. These great three-aisled buildings are called circiform, since the side aisles are extended around the apse like the tiers of seats at the rounded end of a circus, and it has been asked whether the central aisle was covered. We see that at the start of the 4th c. the typology of Christian buildings was not at all rigid.

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