The spiritual house we call a church is above all intended to be reflection of heaven arrayed in signs and symbols. A church is intended to be a map of heaven and how to get there. The church building is also a metaphor in stone of a people’s own spiritual journey as we make our pilgrimage from isolated individuals, into community, to the presence of the Divine.
This is the gate of heaven, the door of eternal life: it leads the traveller towards the stars. On entering, a person may penetrate the heavenly mountain, if he takes with him faith and hope as his companions. Here forgiveness may be sought, if the pilgrim enters with a devout heart, and on foot. Here also a sinner may shed his evil acts and with tears wash this sacred threshold. Then purged by tears of repentance and adorned with humility, he is worthy to enter the holy places of God. I believe that Jesus in his mercy forgives their sins, so that whoever enters sad will emerge more joyful.
Alcuin of York AD C.735-804
The Early Church House
Christian texts and archaeology show that Christians gathered in people’s houses. These houses were often the villas of the richer members of the Christian community. These church houses appear to have undergone significant renovations and additions to meet the needs of the Christian community. These facts shed some interesting light into a sometimes murky historical period in the early Church.
The Basilica Church
The second great watershed in the evolution of a church’s sacred space occurred when the Emperor Constantine issued a series of edicts and letters from AD 306-311 declaring toleration for all religions throughout the Empire. In the year AD 312 it was said that Constantine converted to Christianity and with his support the once persecuted church received enormous imperial grants of land and money.