Born in what is now Serbia in the late third century, the Emperor Constantine I came to be known as Constantine the Great, one of Ancient Rome’s most famous rulers. Perhaps best known for being the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine was also a prolific builder, meaning that following in his footsteps is a journey to some of Ancient Rome’s most impressive creations. From his home in Trier, Germany to the very centre of Rome, to Turkey and beyond, Constantine’s story is told in every brick, bath and mosaic he left behind. We can help you follow in the footsteps of this iconic leader and visit sites that relate to his life – helping you to plan your perfect Constantine the Great tour. We’ve compiled a fantastic selection of places to allow you to follow in the footsteps of Constantine the Great with our editor’s picks followed by a few hidden gems you won’t want to miss.
What are the most interesting sites linked to Constantine the Great?
1. Sirmium Imperial Palace
Built at the end of the third or beginning of the fourth century AD, the Sirmium Imperial Palace complex in Serbia contains the remains of a Roman imperial palace which was home to several Roman Emperors, including Constantine I. Indeed, Constantine the Great spent a lot of time here. It was at this palace that he celebrated his fifteenth jubilee and it was also the site of the birth of his son, Constantius II. Today the Sirmium Imperial Palace complex is one of the most important Roman sites in Serbia and is a testament to the central role this area played in the middle and late Roman Empire.
2. Arch of Constantine
Standing proudly aside the Colosseum in Rome, the Arch of Constantine was a triumphal arch built by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great, in 315AD. Erected to commemorate Constantine’s victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312AD, this monument contains an inscription dedicated to the emperor which can still be read today.
3. Basilica of Constantine - Trier
The Basilica of Constantine or “Konstantin Basilika” in Trier in Germany is a remnant of this city’s prominent Ancient Roman history and of particular importance to Constantine the Great. Trier, then Augusta Treverorum, was the capital of Rome’s Western Empire and the Emperor’s home. Part of the development of Trier undertaken by the Emperor from 306 AD, he would meet and greet audiences at the basilica. In the fifth century, the Basilica of Constantine was destroyed by invading Germanic forces, but now stands restored. This is partially due to the fact that it was incorporated into a seventeenth century palace and then served as an army barracks. In 1944, the Basilica of Constantine was renovated and it is now used as a church.
4. San Giovanni in Laterano
In the early fourth century, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great founded San Giovanni in Laterano, now the basilica known to many as the “cathedral of the world”, by virtue of the fact that it is the cathedral of Rome and thus the seat of the Pope. San Giovanni in Laterano was dedicated to John the Evangelist and John the Baptist and consecrated in 324AD. The current structure mostly dates to the late sixteenth century, the cloisters to the thirteenth century and its façade is an eighteenth century creation. In fact, San Giovanni in Laterano was rebuilt several times over the centuries including a controversial redecoration during the papacy of Innocent X which obscured many original frescoes.
5. Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine
The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine is the largest structure in the Roman Forum and still has part of its roof as well as three of its colossal arches and vaults. Initial construction of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine started under the Roman Emperor Maxentius in 308 AD and was completed by Constantine in approximately 312-3 AD. With its vast vaults standing unsupported, it is considered to be a triumph of Roman engineering. Contrary to the religious connotations of its name, it is thought that the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine would have, like other Roman basilicas, served as a meeting house and judicial or administrative centre.
6. Imperial Baths of Trier
The Imperial Baths of Trier, known in German as Kaiserthermen, are the beautifully preserved ruins of a Roman public bath complex. Constructed in the fourth century AD, these baths were part of Constantine’s mass development of the then Roman city of Augusta Treverorum, where he lived. Considered to be the largest Roman baths outside of Rome, the remains of the Imperial Baths of Trier are centrally located within the city and are a fantastic site, with many of their walls standing and even the option to explore their underground tunnels.
7. Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest Christian churches in existence and is believed to be located on the site where Jesus Christ was born. The first church on this site is thought to have been built by Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother St. Helena in 326 AD. Whilst some of the flooring of this original church survives, the present structure of the Church of the Nativity dates to 530 AD and was built by the Emperor Justinian. Christian pilgrims flock to the Church of the Nativity to see the silver star that marks the site on which Christ is believed to have been born.
8. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Built in 325/6AD by Roman Emperor Constantine I (the first such emperor to convert to Christianity), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located on what many Christians believe to be Golgotha/The Hill of Cavalry, where Christ is said to have been crucified and later resurrected. It derives its name – Sepulchre, meaning the tomb- from the belief that it is the site of Jesus’ burial. It was Constantine’s mother, Helena, who went to Jerusalem and identified the site. Prior to the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the land on which it stands had been a temple to the deity Aphrodite, built by the Emperor Hadrian.
9. Arch of Janus
The Arch of Janus in Rome is an ancient Roman monument which is exceptional for being the only remaining triumphal arch in the city to have four faces, a design feature known as Quadrifrons. Constructed in the early fourth century AD, the Arch of Janus was located at the periphery of the Forum Boarium, once Rome’s cattle market. Little is known about this arch and, despite its name, the Arch of Janus was probably built in honour of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. As such, it is often known as Arcus Constantini. As Constantine himself converted to Christianity after his victory in the civil wars, there is much debate as to whether such a triumphal arch would have been dedicated to a pagan deity by Constantine, further compelling the mystery surrounding this monument.
10. Hagia Sophia
It was Constantine the Great who first established the Hagia Sophia, although it was only completed after his death. Very little remains of the original structure. Today, it is the site of the world famous mosque in Istanbul and operates as a museum.