Friday, August 17, 2012

St. Helena -Saint of the Day (August 18,2012)

Empress mother of Constantine the Great. She was a native of Bithynia, who married the then Roman general Constantius I Chlorus about 270. Constantine was born soon after, and in 293, Constantius was made Caesar, or junior emperor. He divorced Helena to marry co Emperor Maximian’s stepdaughter. Constantine became emperor in 312 after the fateful victory at Milvian Bridge, and Helena was named Augusta, or empress. She converted to Christianity and performed many acts of charity, including building churches in Rome and in the Holy Land. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Helena discovered the True Cross. She is believed to have died in Nicomedia. Her porphyry sarcophagus is in the Vatican Museum. Geoffrey of Monmouth, England, started the legend that Helena was the daughter of the king of Colchester, a tradition no longer upheld. In liturgical art Helena is depicted as an empress, holding a cross. 

  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; this being the Roman capital in Britain at the time, today the town has schools and places named after her, as well as her image appearing on the town hall and her son's name, Constantine, being used as the title for a particular road.


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