Saturday, October 27, 2007

St. Helena

Empress and Saint

Helena was a humble innkeeper's daughter from Bithyna. It was said that as a girl, Helena had been one of the supplementary amenities of her father's establishment, regularly available to clients, at an extra charge.

Helena married Constantius (r.293 - 306). She was the mother of Emperor Constantine I (b.274). Elevated to rank of Augusta, Helena kept her court at Boulogne. Helena was abandoned by her husband (305) in order that he could marry Emperor Maximus' adopted stepdaughter, Theodora. The following year witnessed the death of Helena's former husband at York (25/7/306) when he and his son went to England.

Helena embarked upon a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (c.324-325). She went to Rome (326) with her son Constantine. Helena disliked her daughter-in-law Fausta (daughter of Maximus whose stepdaughter stole her own husband over 40 years previous).

Aged 70yo (327) as passionate enthusiastic Christian convert, Helena made another pilgrimage to Holy Land to tour principal shrines. In the Holy Land, Helena was said to have unearthed the True Cross, which she sent back to Rome. In fact, Helena was a successful archaeologist; she set out for Palestine to uncover Calvary and find the relics of the Passion; her discovery was endorsed by Emperor who built a church, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Helena's was, in fact, the first recorded Christian pilgrimage. The length of her stay was unknown but she probably died there.

~~~ Melisende (first pub: 1998 Women of History)

No comments: