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Edict of Milan

The Edict of Milan represented a fundamental turning point in the history and development of Christianity, particularly with regard to its status as a religion. While the document itself does not survive, the effects of the Edict of Milan helped to permanently shape Christianity from a fledgling religious sect to a major religious group that was recognized as well as protected by the state.

Promulgated in 313 CE, the Edict of Milan signaled the declaration of religious tolerance throughout the Roman Empire, meaning that previous barriers hindering the practice of a variety of religions, including Christianity, were removed. The Edict followed the decriminalization of Christianity by Galerius, the first Emperor of Rome who issued an edict regarding religious tolerance for different creeds, including Christianity.

Declared as a result of a political agreement between Constantine I, emperor of the Western Roman Empire and of Licinius, emperor of the eastern regions of the Roman Empire, the Edict of Milan signaled a dramatic shift for Christians living in the Empire. Christians could now publicly observe the liturgy and fully observe religious traditions without fear of persecution, as the Edict of Milan removed penalties for professing Christianity, which had previously resulted in numerous cases of martyrdom. In addition, property that had been confiscated by Christian individuals, including halls used as places of worship and meetings, were now returned.

The Edict also signaled the onset of the period known as the Peace of the Church, a period of time during which imperial favor was bestowed to Christianity. The Roman Emperor Constantine I himself was the first emperor to promote and bestow favors to the Christian Church as well as to members of the Church as was the first Christian emperor of Rome. Constantine was also a central figure in the Nicene Council, another important theological cornerstone of the Christian religion.

Furthermore, Constantine, as well as his mother St. Helena, who was also Christian, are both remembered in the Byzantine calendar as saints and share a feast day on May 21. Individuals of both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern catholic Churches of the Byzantine rites follow the Byzantine calendar and thus celebrate this religious feast day.

In addition, the Peace of the Church is to this day considered an important theological turning point as it granted complete amnesty of religious freedom to individuals and established the independence of religion from state interference.

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