Rhone River Travel Journal—Day 6

 

Temple of Augustus & Livia

Temple of Augustus & Livia

Vienne, France has a rich Christian history.

Legend has it that Crescens, a disciple of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 4:10) settled here in Vienne and was the first leader of the church here (although it’s possible he instead settled in Galatia).

Josephus states (and Eusebius repeats) that “Herod lost his kingdom on account of the same Herodias, and that he was driven into banishment with her, and condemned to live at Vienne in Gaul.”

Pontius Pilate purportedly fell into disfavor under the rule of Emperor Caligula (37 AD -41 AD) and was banished to Vienne, where he committed suicide.

But for the example of Crescens, one might think Vienne was the Detroit of the Roman Empire. Actually, it was a major Roman city, as we saw from the many Roman ruins that remain.

We began our tour just across the street from the dock, where we were saw the remains of an ancient Roman road and mile marker. The mile marker displayed the distance from Vienne to Constantinople, which gives one an idea of the breadth of the Roman—and later Byzantine—empire. I thought our tour guide said archaeologists unearthed near this road an ancient sack of haggis, until The Wife clarified for me the guide had actually said “sarcophagus,” which, I did not find as interesting.

A few blocks away,we came upon a Roman temple to deified Emperor Augustus and wife, Livia. It was built during the time of Emperor Claudius (41AD-54AD). Its history as a pagan temple though was relatively short-lived.

Vienne Cathedral

Vienne Cathedral

In the fourth century, the kingdom of God having prevailed over the Gates of Hades in the Roman Empire, as Jesus promised, the Temple of Augustus and Livia was converted to a church. Then, during the French Revolution it was converted to a government office. Such is the way of buildings: they are merely facades. Towns, governments and the kingdom of God are ultimately defined by their people, not their structures.

One block away from the temple stands Vienne Cathedral, a church built in 1052 (and added to thereafter) and which is dedicated to Saint Maurice. Maurice was a Roman soldier who lived during the second half of the third century.

When he was ordered by Maximimian to harass local Christians, he refused, resulting in his execution and the execution of the other Christians in his legion who also refused orders contrary to the law of God.

On the back of the altar in the cathedral is inscribed the following declaration of Maurice: “Here we stand, armed, but will not defend ourselves, because we shall rather die than kill, rather perish innocently than survive guilty.” Such are the principals of those who change the world for the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow, more about those who loved Jesus more than their lives. GS