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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

During the reign of Constantine the Great (from A.D. 312 to 336), who published many edicts in favor of the Christians, stately altars of gold and silver, and sometimes even of precious stones, were to be seen in several cities of the East and West. The emperor himself had caused to be erected at Rome, in the basilica called after his name—now the Church of St. John Lateran—seven different altars of the purest silver (Kozma, 29, note 4). The Empress Pulcheria bestowed upon the great basilica of Constantinople an altar formed of gold and gems (ibid.) There is still to be seen at Chartres, in France, a very ancient altar made of jasper (ibid.)

But the greatest of all altars was that of the famous Church of Holy Wisdom at Constantinople, justly regarded as one of the wonders of the age. Everything that was precious on sea or land was purchased and brought together to form this singular altar. Gold, silver, and the richest metals, with every variety of precious stones, were collected by the Emperor Justinian and used in its erection. The most experienced artisans of the day were employed in superintending its construction, and neither labor nor expense was spared to make it perfect of its kind. When finished, the following inscription appeared upon it: “We, thy servants, Justinian and Theodora, offer unto thee, O Christ! thine own gifts out of thine own, which we beseech thee favorably to accept, O Son and Word of God! who wast made flesh and crucified for our sakes; keep us in the true orthodox faith; and this empire which thou hast committed to our trust augment and preserve to thine own glory, through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary” (Martène, De Antiquis Ecclesiæ Ritibus, art. “Altare”).








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