As you know there are thousands of saints recognized by the Catholic Church. These saints span from the first century to the twentieth century. And many of these are saints for which we have very little information other than a solid sense that the saint has been venerated since his or her death.
On the other hand, there are also a large number of saints for which we have very detailed information about their lives. Between these two extremes, there are saints for whom we have some information and usually a single life event that marks them out. St. Helena of Constantinople (c. 248 - c. 330) falls into the last category.
From an historical perspective, it is interesting that little is known about Helena because after the ascension of her son Constantine to the throne of the Roman Empire in 306, Helena became the most powerful woman in the world as the mother of the emperor. Just like the queen mothers of the Ancient Near East, Constantine allowed his mother to wield a great deal of power and to have a large number of resources at her disposal. And although, the Roman Empire during Constantine's reign was not what it used to be, it was still a very significant power which had not begun its rapid decline.
Helena's Early Life and First Turning Point
To begin with, the actual birthplace of Helena is not know with any certainty. Based on the information available from the earliest sources there are two possible locations. One early source indicates that she was of Greek origin and born in the seaside town of Drepanum in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor or modern day Turkey. Other sources indicate that she is a native of Colchester in England. Although historians tend now to lean toward the former location, there is not enough strong evidence to discount the English claim to be the land of her birth.
Divorced and Retired to an Outpost of the Empire
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Helena's Son Constantine Becomes Emperor
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Her Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Helena returned in triumph from her pilgrimage with many relics, including pieces of the True Cross, and having established important churches on various holy places. Her own journey was coming to and end. With her son by her side, she died peacefully around the year 330.
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