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The Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200-400
Ramsay Macmullen
Publication Date
March 2009


A reassessment of the early church using the archaeological evidence

Ramsay MacMullen considers the unwritten evidence for Christianity in the centuries before and after Constantine’s conversion in order to gain a better understanding of the second church, the church of the majority of Christians, as well as that of the first church, that of the bishops who in part condemned, in part tolerated, and in part re-shaped the church of the many. MacMullen uses the excavation reports of hundreds of churches of the fourth century to reveal the religion that the majority of ordinary Christians practiced. He then uses the material remains to reassess the total number of Christians who lived during this period. MacMullen argues that by AD 400 Christians constituted a far smaller percentage of the total population than previously suggested, raising very large questions about the place of religion in the life of the times and in the social composition of both churches.


  • Maps, photos, and illustrations
  • Chapters on the Eastern Empire, Greece, the Balkans, North Africa, Italy, and the northwest
  • Appendix lists churches built before 400

Ramsay MacMullen is Dunham Professor Emeritus of History and Classics at Yale University. He is the recipient of a lifetime Award for Scholarly Distinction from the American Historical Association and the author of numerous volumes on Christianity and the Roman Empire.

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