Feast Day : August 18
Patronage: converts; against divorce; empresses
Also known as: Helen of the Cross
Helena, a native of Turkey, married Constantius I Chlorus, a Roman general who reigned as junior emperor from 293 to 306. The marriage took place in 270, and a son, Constantine, was born soon thereafter. After his elevation to caesar, Constantius was required to divorce Helena, a woman of a lower class than he, and marry Theodora, the stepdaughter of co-emperor Maximian (r. 286–305). Son Constantine became a junior emperor upon the death of his father in 306. In 312, he won a major military victory over Maximian and became emperor. Helena was named empress. Helena converted to Christianity and was renowned for her charity and building of churches. She went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land—by some accounts when she was nearly 80 years old—in search of the holy cross. In excavations, three crosses were discovered, including one that seemed to be the “true cross.” Hence in art she is often shown holding a cross. Helena died probably in Nicomedia (in modern Turkey). Her sarcophagus is in the Vatican Museum.