Constantine (r. 306-337)

A 9th-century Manuscript Illustration

This image is a manuscript illustration showing Constantine at Milvian Bridge, from a 9th-century Byzantine manuscript written in Greek.

A 9th-century Account of Milvian Bridge

This passage comes from a ninth-century Christian text written in Arabic and preserved in the monastery on Mount Sinai.

When Christ wanted to bring about his resurrection and his power and to punish the Jews, and to show his mercy and grace to the people, they had blessing in the Cross and Christianity spread out, throughout the sea and the land for three hundred years. But the Cross was still hidden in the ground. No one knew about it except the man from the family of that house [who hid it].

Then Christ wanted <to reveal the place of his Cross>, He showed his Cross to one of the Roman emperors, named Constantine, who was not a Christian at that time. When he was out to do battle against his enemies, he began to call upon God, asking for His help and saying, “O God, the Creator of heaven and earth! If You wish, give me kingship and grant me power if You want, by Your mercy and grace. I ask You to show me and guide me to the truest religion, which is the most beloved to you.” While he was calling God and petitioning Him, he was with his army confronting his enemies.

But he lifted up his eyes to heaven and saw two great illuminating pillars, one across the other, in the shape of the cross. And there was a writing in Greek written in them, which was more luminous than them (i.e., the pillars): “You have called upon God to show you the truest religions and what is the most beloved to Him. This is the sign of the best of religions and the most beloved and the dearest to God. Therefore, mark your banners with which you are aiming at your enemies as what you have seen.” Then he commanded <his armies to do as God commanded>. Then the banners were changed and attached with a cross. Then God, the most Blessed and Exalted, made him victorious against his enemies he was engaging with, and He made him triumphant without any difficulty.

A 4th-century Coin

This coin, minted by Constantine, shows Constantine on one side and winged Victory on the other.