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Chapter XVI.—Letter from the Emperor to Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, concerning the building of the Holy Church.

Constantinus, the victorious and the great, to Macarius.

“The grace of our Saviour is so wonderful, that no words are adequate to express the present marvel. The fact that the monument of His most holy sufferings should have remained concealed beneath the earth, during so long a course of years, until the time when, on the death of the common enemy of all, it was destined to shine forth on His liberated servants, surpasses every other subject of admiration. If all the wise men throughout the world were collected into one place, and were to endeavour to express themselves worthily of it, they could not approach within an infinite distance of it; for this miracle is as much beyond all human power of belief, as heavenly things by their nature are mightier than human. Hence it is my first and only object that, as by new miracles the faith in the truth is daily confirmed, so the minds of us all may be more earnestly devoted to the holy law, wisely, zealously, and with one accord. As my design is, I think, now generally known, I desire that you, above all, should be assured that my most intense anxiety is to decorate with beautiful edifices that consecrated spot, which by God’s command I have relieved from the burden of the foul idol which encumbered it. For from the beginning He declared it holy, and has rendered it still more holy from the time that He brought to light the proof and memorial of the sufferings of our Lord.

I trust, then, to your sagacity to take every necessary care, not only that the basilica itself surpass all others; but that all its arrangements be such that this building may be incomparably superior to the most beautiful structures in every city throughout the world. We have entrusted our friend Dracilianus392392    Vide note 4 on chap. xiv., who discharges the functions of the most illustrious præfect of the province, with the superintendence of the work of the erection and decoration of the walls. He has received our orders to engage workmen and artisans, and to provide all that you may deem requisite for the building. Let us know, by letter, when you have inspected the work, what columns or marbles you consider would be most ornamental, in order that whatever you may inform us is necessary for the work may be conveyed thither from all quarters of the world. For that which is of all places the most wonderful, ought to be decorated in accordance with its dignity. I wish to learn from you whether you think that the vaulted roof of the basilica ought to be panelled393393    λακωναρία, fr. Lat lacunar, (lacuna lacus LAK) = fretted ceiling. Cf. Hor. Od. II. xviii. 2., or to be adorned in some other way; for if it is to be panelled it may also be gilt. Your holiness must signify to the aforesaid officers, as soon as possible, what workmen and artificers, and what sums of money, are requisite; and let me know promptly not only about the marbles and columns, but also about the panelled ceiling, if you decide that this will be the most beautiful mode of construction. May God preserve you, beloved brother394394    On the traditional site of the Holy Sepulchre, and the buildings on it, vide Stanley’s “Sinai and Palestine,” pp. 457 and seqq., and Canon Bright in Dict. Christ. Ant., article “Holy Sepulchre.”.”


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