From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Few Christian churches built in the first half millennium of the established Christian Church were not built upon sites already consecrated as pagan temples or mithraea, the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (literally Saint Mary above Minerva) in Rome being simply the most obvious example. Sulpicius Severus, in his Vita of Martin of Tours, a dedicated destroyer of temples and sacred trees, remarks "wherever he destroyed heathen temples, there he used immediately to build either churches or monasteries" (Vita, ch xiii), and when Benedict took possession of the site at Monte Cassino, he began by smashing the sculpture of Apollo and the altar that crowned the height.
The British Isles and other areas of northern Europe that were formerly druidic are still densely punctuated by holy wells and holy springs that are now attributed to some saint, often a highly local saint unknown elsewhere; in earlier times many of these were seen as guarded by supernatural forces such as the melusina, and many such pre-Christian holy wells appear to survive as baptistries. Not all pre-Christian holy places were respected enough for them to survive, however, as most ancient European sacred groves, such as the great Irminsul (whose location is now lost, but was possibly located at Externsteine), were destroyed by Christianizing forces.
During the Reconquista and the Crusades, the cross served the symbolic function of possession that a flag would occupy today. At the siege of Lisbon in 1147, when a mixed group of Christians took the city, "What great joy and what a great abundance there was of pious tears when, to the praise and honor of God and of the most Holy Virgin Mary the saving cross was placed atop the highest tower to be seen by all as a symbol of the city's subjection." (De expugnatione Lyxbonensi)
Films dealing with Christianity
- Christianity and Paganism
- Christian mythology
- Christianity and sexuality
- Persecution of Christians
- Sexuality in Christian demonology
- Criticism of Christianity
- Christian art
- Christian philosophy
- Christian symbolism