Saint Helena of Constantinople
Jul 09, 2015 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast August 18
Helena was born about the middle of the third century on the Nicomedian Gulf. The daughter of a humble innkeeper, she became the lawful wife of the Roman general Constantius Chlorus and bore him a son, Constantine, in the year 274.
When Constantius became co-Regent of the West in 292, he forsook Helena to marry Theodora, the step-daughter of the Emperor Maximianus Herculius, his patron. But her son remained faithful and loyal to his mother.
Upon the death of Constantius, in 308, Constantine, who succeeded him, summoned his mother to the imperial court, conferred upon her the title of Augusta, ordered that all honor should be paid her as the mother of the sovereign, and had coins struck bearing her effigy.
Her son’s influence caused Helena to embrace Christianity after his victory over Maxentius. From the time of her conversion she led an earnestly Christian life and by her own influence and generosity favored the wider spread of Christianity. She had many churches built in the West where the imperial court resided.
Despite her advanced age, in the year 324, at the age of sixty-three, she undertook a journey to Palestine where she had resolved to bring to God, the King of kings, the homage and tribute of her devotion.
When she “had shown due veneration to the footsteps of the Savior,” she had two churches erected for the worship of God: one was raised in Bethlehem near the Grotto of the Nativity, the other on the Mount of the Ascension, near Jerusalem. She also embellished the sacred grotto with rich ornaments.
Everywhere she went, Helena Augusta visited churches with pious zeal and enriched them by her benevolence. Her generosity embraced not only individuals but entire communities. The poor and destitute were the special objects of her charity.
Her memory in Rome is chiefly identified with the church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme, built in honor of the true Cross. Also enshrined in the basilica are the other relics of the Passion of Our Lord which the Emperor’s mother had brought back to Rome from the Holy Land.
Constantine was with his mother when she died, at the advanced age of eighty years or thereabouts. This must have been about the year 330, for the last coins which are known to have been stamped with her name bore this date. Her body was brought to Constantinople and laid to rest in the imperial vault of the church of the Apostles.
In 849, her remains were transferred to the Abbey of Hautvillers, in the French Archdiocese of Reims.