From the Archives: The Edict of Milan

When we, Constantine and Licinius, Emperors, met at Milan in conference concerning the welfare and security of the realm, we decided that of the things that are of profit to all mankind, the worship of God ought rightly to be our first and chiefest care, and that it was right that Christians and all others should have freedom to follow the kind of religion they favored; so that the God who dwells in heaven might be propitious to us and to all under our rule.

We therefore announce that, notwithstanding any provisions concerning the Christians in our former instructions, all who choose that religion are to be permitted to continue therein, without any let or hindrance, and are not to be in any way troubled or molested.

Moreover, concerning the Christians, we before gave orders with respect to the places set apart for their worship. It is now our pleasure that all who have bought such places should restore them to the Christians, without any demand for payment. [Owners could apply to the state for compensation.]

You are to use your utmost diligence in carrying out these orders on behalf of the Christians. … So shall that divine favor which we have already enjoyed, in affairs of the greatest moment, continue to grant us success, and thus secure the happiness of the realm.

— Lactantius On the Death of the Persecutors, XL VIII

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #27 in 1990]

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