Christian Architecture before Constantine
THE ONLY EXAMPLES of church architecture that either survive from the first three centuries of Christianity or follow the same tradition are striking evidence of the difference in conditions before and after the official adoption by the Roman State of the new religion. The earliest churches were the unobtrusive meeting places for members of a proscribed sect who lived in constant uncertainty of what the future might hold in store; and although some at least were furnished and decorated in a Christian manner, it is fairly certain that the majority would have reflected the absolute simplicity of Apostolic times, a simplicity based not only on the tradition of the first Christian meeting of all in the upper room in Jerusalem, but on the common sense of avoiding trouble from the civil authorities. Immediately after the Crucifixion, the Apostles had assembled behind closed doors 'for fear of the Jews' and, later, even when they had gained confidence at Pentecost, they still chose to meet away from prying eyes, no longer simply in fear of their own people and religious leaders, but from the representatives of an increasingly hostile Roman government. Throughout Acts it is clear that in the period immediately following the foundation of the Church, the Apostles and their converts met for specifically Christian prayers and services only in the private houses of fellow Christians, and the atmosphere of one meeting of this kind is vividly recaptured from the account of St Paul's visit to Troas ( Acts xx, vv. 7-8).
'And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until