Lending her name to the island of Napoleon's exile was not her only merit — Empress Helena has contributed to legitimizing and spreading the Christian religion worldwide. Let’s get to know her better!
I. Saint Helena, née Flavia Iulia Helena, was born in Bithynia (today Turkey) in 248 circa and died after a long and fruitful life in 329 ca.
II. She is the mother of the first Christian emperor, Constantine I the Great, who probably was the one to evangelize the future saint. By extending the religious toleration to the Christian religion, his Edict of Milan of 313 has brought the Roman persecutions against Christians to an end.
St. Helena with his son, Constantine the Great. Source: Wikipedia.
III. Her consort, Constantius Chlorus, has divorced her for political reasons in 289 in order to marry a noblewoman. Though when her son became emperor, in 306, she received the title of “Augusta”, the dowager empress.
IV. Saint Helena encouraged the spread of Christianity by supporting the construction of several churches at places where crucial events of Christ’s life occurred. So, the Church of the Nativity has been built on the site of His birth, and the Church on the Mount of Olives erected where He was crucified.
V. She is credited with founding the True Cross, the one on which Christ was crucified. After this discovery, the cross started to spread as a symbol of the Christian religion. The other relics she found in the course of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land were brought to Rome and are now kept in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre now stands on the site where she found the True Cross.
VI. The feast day of St. Helena is August, 18th. She is the Patron Saint of the lost things, converts, and difficult marriages, among others.
VII. Saint Peter’s Basilica houses the most important shrine dedicated to this Saint, represented by a magnificent marble statue holding the Cross.