The Bible says a star announced the birth of Jesus. Now geologists say a meteor that landed in Italy in 312 AD may have been seen as a sign from God by the Roman emperor Constantine, causing him to convert to Christianity, saving the religion from almost certain demise.

Constantine saw a blazing light cross the sky just before he went into battle, and he attributed his victory to divine help from the Christian God. Once in power, he stopped the persecution of Christians and gave their religion official status. Without his recognition, what was then a small and oppressed religious movement might have died out.

Swedish geologist Jens Ormo has found the crater where the meteor hit in central Italy. Radiocarbon dating puts the crater’s formation at about the right time to have been witnessed by Constantine. According to Ormo, it struck the Earth with the force of a small nuclear bomb, producing shock waves, and would have had a mushroom cloud.

Eusebius, an early Christian historian, wrote, “…While he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard to believe had it been related by any other person…About noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the Sun, and bearing the inscription ‘conquer by this.’ At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.”

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