Roman Colonnade Houses
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Roman Colonnade Houses
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Colonnade GardenBy definition "Colonnade houses" denoted a long row of columns which were straight or curving. Colonnades exist today in many modern buildings like the British Museum in London and the Lincoln memorial in Washington. Roman colonnade houses in ancient Roman times surprised many by their size and occupation numbers. For example in Pompeii situated to the south east of Rome on the coast of Italy, the House of the Citharist was 10,215 square foot and the House of Menander was 3,340 square foot. They do seem large even by modern standards. Christian scholars had traditionally assumed upper limits in Christian colonnade houses of 30 to 50 people in a household worship service, and indeed, some houses could have been quite crowded by so many. But if we calculate the numbers in these large colonnaded houses, gatherings of the whole church in a city could still have been over a thousand!

Colonnade Gardens

Colonnade HouseIt is a mistake to set a hard upper limit of 30 to 40 for the number of Christians who might celebrate the Lord's Supper together. In Roman houses with colonnade gardens it could have been much larger number. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids in the "Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development" asserted that many Christian assemblies were certainly much smaller than forty, others could have been significantly larger.

Wealthy Patrons

MansionMartin and Davids also wrote, "We have focused on the larger colonnade houses because many writers have assumed that they did not exist." Gaius was head of a synagogue in Corinth and Erasmus was an aedile or an officer of the Roman Republic responsible for the maintenance of public buildings and regulation of public ceremonies in the same city. Priscilla and Aquila, who owned one house in Asia and another in Rome, and Phoebe, a notable woman in the church at Cenchreae, and Saint Paul's patron, as well as many others were obviously wealthy enough and probably owned colonnade houses in several places, although since we cannot visit them, we will never know." Cenchreae was entrusted by Saint Paul to deliver his letter to the Christian community in Rome.

Ostentatious Residences

Jerusalem House"The need for all early Christian assemblies to have been small and private was a modern projection not justified by Roman domestic culture or architecture." The so-called Palatial Mansion in Jerusalem was an example of an ostentatious residence that could easily have accommodated the sorts of meetings described in the Acts of the Apostles. It was believed to have been a 6500 sq ft residence in the Second Temple era in Jerusalem. It was in essence a palace. Some Roman houses covered more than five thousand square feet and included an upper level for dwellings and a lower basement for water installations including pools, baths and cisterns. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD has unfortunately made reconstruction impossible.

"Roman Colonnade Houses"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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