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Statuary St. Helena

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St. Helena

St Helena also known as Saint Helen or Helena of Constantinople (246/50 – 330) was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. She is traditionally credited with finding the relics of the True Cross, with which she is often represented in Christian iconography. She is patroness for new discoveries, archaeologists, converts, difficult marriages and empresses.

Family life

Helena's birthplace is not known with certainty. The 6th-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city "Helenopolis" after her death in 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace. Although he might have done so in her honor, Constantine probably had other reasons for doing so. The Byzantinist Cyril Mango has argued that Helenopolis was refounded to strengthen the communication network around his new capital in Constantinople, and was renamed simply to honor Helena, not to mark her birthplace. There was also a Helenopolis in Palestine (modern Daburiyya) and a Helenopolis in Lydia. These cities, and the province of Helenopontus in the Diocese of Pontus, were probably both named after Constantine's mother. G. K. Chesterton in his book 'A Short History of England' writes that she was considered a Briton by the British; supporting this, she is depicted as having golden hair. Some people believe that she came from Colchester in Essex; today the town has schools and places named after her, as well as her image appearing on the town hall.

The bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea states that she was about 80 on her return from Palestine. Since that journey has been dated to 326–28, Helena was probably born in 248 or 250. Little is known of her early life. Fourth-century sources, following Eutropius' "Breviarium," record that she came from a low background. Saint Ambrose was the first to call her a stabularia, a term translated as "stable-maid" or "inn-keeper". He makes this fact a virtue, calling Helena a bona stabularia, a "good stable-maid". Other sources, especially those written after Constantine's proclamation as emperor, gloss over or ignore her background.

It is unknown where she first met Constantius. The historian Timothy Barnes has suggested that Constantius, while serving under Emperor Aurelian, could have met her while stationed in Asia Minor for the campaign against Zenobia. It is said that upon meeting they were wearing identical silver bracelets, Constantius saw her as his soulmate sent by God. Barnes calls attention to an epitaph at Nicomedia of one of Aurelian's protectors, which could indicate the emperor's presence in the Bithynian region soon after 270. The precise legal nature of the relationship between Helena and Constantius is also unknown. The sources are equivocal on the point, sometimes calling Helena Constantius' "wife", and sometimes, following the dismissive propaganda of Constantine's rival Maxentius, calling her his "concubine". Jerome, perhaps confused by the vague terminology of his own sources, manages to do both. Some scholars, such as the historian Jan Drijvers, assert that Constantius and Helena were joined in a common-law marriage, a cohabitation recognized in fact but not in law. Others, like Timothy Barnes, assert that Constantius and Helena were joined in an official marriage, on the grounds that the sources claiming an official marriage are more reliable.

Helena gave birth to the future emperor Constantine I on 27 February of an uncertain year soon after 270 (probably around 272). At the time, she was in Naissus (Niš, Serbia). In order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, Constantius divorced Helena some time before 289, when he married Theodora, Maximian's daughter. (The narrative sources date the marriage to 293, but the Latin panegyric of 289 refers to the couple as already married). Helena and her son were dispatched to the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia, where Constantine grew to be a member of the inner circle. Helena never remarried and lived for a time in obscurity, though close to her only son, who had a deep regard and affection for her.

Constantine was proclaimed Augustus of the Roman Empire in 306 by Constantius' troops after the latter had died, and following his elevation his mother was brought back to the public life in 312, returning to the imperial court. She appears in the Eagle Cameo portraying Constantine's family, probably commemorating the birth of Constantine's son Constantine II in the summer of 316. She received the title of Augusta in 325 and died in 330 with her son at her side. She was buried in the Mausoleum of Helena, outside Rome on the Via Labicana. Her sarcophagus is on display in the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum, although the connection is often questioned, next to her is the sarcophagus of her granddaughter Saint Constantina (Saint Constance). The elaborate reliefs contain hunting scenes. During her life, she gave many presents to the poor, released prisoners and mingled with the ordinary worshippers in modest attire.

Helena's saintliness has never been questioned despite her active participation in the execution of Crispus and Fausta. On some date between 15 May and 17 June 326, Constantine had his eldest son Crispus, by Minervina, seized, tried and put to death by "cold poison" at Pola (Pula, Croatia). In July, Constantine had his wife, the Empress Fausta, killed at the behest of his mother, Helena. Fausta was left to die in an overheated bath. Their names were wiped from the face of many inscriptions, references to their lives in the literary record were erased, and the memory of both was condemned.

Sainthood

She is considered by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, as well as by the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Churches as a saint, famed for her piety. Her feast day as a saint of the Orthodox Christian Church is celebrated with her son on 21 May, the "Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles." Likewise, Anglican churches and some Lutheran churches, keep the Eastern date. Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church falls on 18 August. Her feast day in the Coptic Orthodox Church is on 9 Pashons. Eusebius records the details of her pilgrimage to Palestine and other eastern provinces (though not her discovery of the True Cross). She is the patron saint of new discoveries. Her discovery of the cross along with Constantine is celebrated as a play in the Philippines called Santacruzan.

Relic discoveries

Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326-28 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ's birth and ascension. Local founding legend attributes to Helena's orders the construction of a church in Egypt to identify the Burning Bush of Sinai. The chapel at St. Catherine's Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year AD 330.

Jerusalem was still being rebuilt following the destruction caused by Emperor Hadrian. He had built a temple over the site of Jesus's tomb near Calvary, and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. Accounts differ concerning whether the Temple was dedicated to Venus or Jupiter According to tradition, Helena ordered the temple torn down and, according to the legend that arose at the end of the 4th century, chose a site to begin excavating, which led to the recovery of three different crosses. The legend is recounted in Ambrose, On the Death of Theodosius (died 395) and at length in Rufinus' chapters appended to his translation into Latin of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, the main body of which does not mention the event. Then, Rufinus relates, the empress refused to be swayed by anything short of solid proof and performed a test. Possibly through Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, she had a woman who was near death brought from the city. When the woman touched the first and second crosses, her condition did not change, but when she touched the third and final cross she suddenly recovered, and Helena declared the cross with which the woman had been touched to be the True Cross. On the site of discovery, Constantine ordered the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; churches were also built on other sites detected by Helena. Sozomen and Theodoret claim that Helena also found the nails of the crucifixion. To use their miraculous power to aid her son, Helena allegedly had one placed in Constantine's helmet, and another in the bridle of his horse.

Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces in 327 to return to Rome, bringing with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace's private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This has been maintained by Cistercian monks in the monastery which has been attached to the church for centuries.

Tradition says that the site of the Vatican Gardens was spread with earth brought from Golgotha by Helena to symbolically unite the blood of Christ with that shed by thousands of early Christians, who died in the persecutions of Nero.

According to one tradition, Helena acquired the Holy Tunic on her trip to Jerusalem and sent it to Trier.

According to Byzantine tradition, Helena is responsible for the large population of cats in Cyprus. Local tradition holds that she imported hundreds of cats from Egypt or Palestine in the fourth century AD to rid a monastery of snakes. The monastery is today known as "St. Nicholas of the Cats" (Greek Άγιος Νικόλαος των Γατών) and is located near Limassol.

Several relics purportedly discovered by Saint Helena are now in Cyprus, where she spent some time. Among them are items believed to be part of Jesus Christ's tunic, pieces of the holy cross, and pieces of the rope with which Jesus was tied on the Cross. The rope, considered to be the only relic of its kind, has been held at the Stavrovouni Monastery, which was also founded by Saint Helena.

Helena's search for Christian relics and the official establishment of these icons are viewed by some scholars to be the introduction of idolatry into the Church. Some centuries later, Emperor Leo III sought to remove such images from Christian worship, but Pope Gregory II (and later Gregory III) and a majority of the clergy protested against the emperor's iconoclastic edicts. The issue for the Catholic church was settled at the Second Council of Nicaea.

Depictions in British folklore

In Great Britain, later legend, mentioned by Henry of Huntingdon but made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth, claimed that Helena was a daughter of the King of Britain, Cole of Camulodunum, who allied with Constantius to avoid more war between the Britons and Rome. Geoffrey further states that she was brought up in the manner of a queen, as she had no brothers to inherit the throne of Britain. The source for this may have been Sozomen's Historia Ecclesiastica, which however does not claim Helena was British but only that her son Constantine picked up his Christianity there. Constantine was with his father when he died in Eboracum (York), but neither had spent much time in Britain.

The statement made by English chroniclers of the Middle Ages, according to which Helena was supposed to have been the daughter of a British prince, is entirely without historical foundation. It may arise from the misinterpretation of a term used in the fourth chapter of the panegyric on Constantine's marriage with Fausta, that Constantine, oriendo (i.e., "by his beginnings," "from the outset") had honoured Britain, which was taken as an allusion to his birth, whereas the reference was really to the beginning of his reign.

At least twenty-five holy wells currently exist in the United Kingdom dedicated to Saint Helena. She is also the patron saint of Abingdon and Colchester. St Helen's Chapel in Colchester was believed to have been founded by Helena herself, and since the 15th century, the town's coat of arms has shown a representation of the True Cross and three crowned nails in her honour. Colchester Town Hall has a Victorian statue of the saint on top of its 50-metre (160 ft) high tower. The arms of Nottingham are almost identical, because of the city's connection with Cole (or Coel), Helena's supposed father.

Adrian Gilbert has argued that Helena traveled to Nevern in Wales and hid the True Cross near the local Norman church of St Brynach, where a cross is carved into a rock formation. Named the Pilgrim's Cross, religious pilgrims once came here to pray for visions. Names of local places are abundant with cross imagery, including River of the Empress, Mountain of the Cross, Pass of the Cross, and others. The True Cross, however, has not been found in this region.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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Title: 4' Carved Wood Or Marble Statue Of St. Helena
Item Number: KRNM-A739
Description:
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Title: Carved Wood Statue of St. Helena
Item Number: KRCM-178
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KRCM-178: Carved Wood Statue of St. Helena. New carved wood statue of St. Helena with multi-colored paint finish. Also available in hand carved marble or cast bronze u...
Title: New Hand Carved Marble or Wood Statue of St. Helena
Item Number: KRNM-781
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Title: Statue of Saint Helena, Empress
Item Number: KRSS-233
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KRSS-233: Statue of Saint Helena, Empress. These statues are considered by many church professionals to be the finest new statues available today. This statue is hand mol...