Who Is Saint Helena?
Saint Helena, also known as Helena of Constantinople, was a historical figure known for her significant influence on Christianity and the discovery of the True Cross. Born in the late 3rd century, Helena was married to the future Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus and gave birth to their son, Constantine the Great, who later became the first Christian Emperor of Rome. Despite her humble origins, Helena’s life had a profound impact on the spread and acceptance of Christianity, making her a revered figure in the Christian faith.
Helena’s Early Life and Conversion to Christianity
Helena was born in the city of Drepana, Bithynia, in Asia Minor, to a humble background. Little is known about her early life, but it is believed that she gained the attention of Constantius Chlorus, a Roman military officer. They married, and Helena eventually gave birth to their son Constantine in 272 AD. While her husband was away on military campaigns, Helena embraced Christianity, despite the religion being widely persecuted at the time.
Helena and the Discovery of the True Cross
Helena’s most notable achievement was her pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of religious relics. In 326 AD, she visited Jerusalem where she embarked on a mission to find the True Cross, the wooden cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. According to historical accounts, Helena was guided by visions and revelations, leading her to excavate the site of Golgotha, where the crosses of the crucifixion victims were believed to have been buried.
After extensive excavations, the True Cross was discovered, along with the crosses of the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus. To distinguish the True Cross from the others, Helena employed a simple yet effective method. She brought a terminally ill woman to touch each of the crosses, and upon touching the True Cross, the woman was miraculously healed. This confirmed the authenticity of the relic and solidified Helena’s status as a revered figure in Christianity.
Helena’s Influence on Christianity
Helena’s discovery of the True Cross had a profound impact on the spread of Christianity. The relic became a symbol of hope and faith for believers, and its authenticity was widely accepted. Helena’s son, Emperor Constantine, played a crucial role in the acceptance of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire. His conversion, influenced by his mother’s faith, led to the end of Christian persecution and the beginning of widespread Christian influence in Europe.
After her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Helena continued to support the Christian faith and the construction of significant Christian sites. She commissioned the construction of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and many other churches throughout the Holy Land. Helena’s contributions to Christianity made her an iconic figure in the religion, and she is venerated as a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1. When was Saint Helena born?
Saint Helena was born in the late 3rd century, around 250 AD.
2. What was Saint Helena’s relationship to Emperor Constantine?
Saint Helena was the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great.
3. How did Saint Helena contribute to the spread of Christianity?
Saint Helena’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the discovery of the True Cross played a significant role in the acceptance and spread of Christianity.
4. How did Saint Helena find the True Cross?
Saint Helena was guided by visions and revelations, leading her to excavate the site of Golgotha in Jerusalem, where the True Cross was discovered.
5. What happened to the True Cross after it was found?
The True Cross became a revered relic and was widely venerated by Christians. It was divided into smaller pieces and distributed to churches and individuals throughout the world.
6. Which significant Christian sites did Saint Helena commission the construction of?
Saint Helena commissioned the construction of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, among others.
7. Is Saint Helena considered a saint in the Christian faith?
Yes, Saint Helena is venerated as a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches for her contributions to Christianity.