Roman Colonnade Houses
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Roman Colonnade Houses 111

Household of Faith Gatherings

Colonnade GardenMany people are surprised by the size and occupation numbers for Roman colonnade houses in Pompeii, situated south east of Rome on the coast of Italy. The square footage of 10,215 square foot for the House of the Citharist and 3,340 square foot for the House of Menander do seem large to us. Christian scholars had traditionally assumed upper limits 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 of considerable size even over a thousand. "Colonnade" denotes a long row of columns which can be straight or curving. Colonnades exist in many modern buildings like the British Museum and the Lincoln memorial in Washington.✞

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. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids in the "Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development" assert that many Christian assemblies were certainly much smaller than forty, others could have been significantly larger.✞

Wealthy Patrons

MansionMartin and Davids write, "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 or Erasmus was an aedile or 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 a house in Asia and another in Rome, and Phoebe, a notable woman in the church at Cenchreae, and Paul's patron, as well as many others were obviously wealthy enough and probably owned colonnade houses like some of those discussed above, although since we cannot visit them, we will never know." Cenchreae was entrusted by 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 is a modern projection not justified by Roman domestic culture or architecture." The so-called Palatial Mansion in Jerusalem is an example of an ostentatious residence that could easily have accommodated the sorts of activities described in the Acts of the Apostles. It is 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 four hundred 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 © 2017

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