The custom of wearing devotional items was derived from the Ancient Roman tradition of wearing amulets depicting mythological symbology as protection against incantations. The Church aimed to purify this belief by substituting pagan images with Christian iconography. Christians were persecuted until the early 4th century AD, with the Great Persecution lasting between 303 and 311 AD. With the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, the emperors Constantine and Licinius granted liberty of cult for all religions, including Christianity. However, it was only in 380 AD, with emperor Theodosius, that Christianity became the only official religion of the Empire.
To discover more about Byzantine art, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire, Art and Christianity.