Mary in Christian Tradition
The Christian "Holy Land" of the 4th Century
Mater Dolorosa Church - Constantinople
In 313 A.D., the Emperor Constantine not only legalized Christianity after centuries of persecution, but contributed resources for its development. He built great churches on the sites associated with Christ's birth, death, resurrection and ascension, making Palestine a vital spiritual center of the Christian world.
From 335 A.D. onward, Christian pilgrims from all over the empire -- bishops, priests, lay people -- flocked to the Holy Land. They celebrated fervently the liturgy of the Jerusalem church which turned the ancient sacred sites and other shrines into a visual gospel. Pilgrims wanted to see the manger, the wood of the cross, anything that survived from Jesus' time. Relics (sometimes authentic, sometimes not) were offered for their devotion. Returning home with their memories, with relics and souvenirs, they celebrated the feasts and sacred places they experienced in the Holy Land in their own liturgies, churches and shrines.