Washington University Special Collections, courtesy of David Hanlon

Intricate architectural details fascinated Butler—such as the delicate acanthus relief decorating the arch of this late-second-century A.D. public building in Shakka, a town in the Hauran region of southern Syria. The structure “appears to have been converted into a church at an early period,” Butler wrote in Early Churches in Syria, “perhaps immediately after the promulgation of Constantine’s decree.” (In 313—the year following the Roman emperor Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity—Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which granted Christianity legal status at least equal to that of paganism, and restored church property to Christians in the eastern provinces.)