“The queen of the world and the mother of the empire”
Virtually every religious building that professes Christian values commonly has an identifiable relic in a shape of a cross, something often seen on a church in almost every European city. Most people consider it a part of the religious or cultural background of their country yet, I wonder how many people are aware that ’the legend of the discovery of the cross’ is closely associated with Empress Helena from late antiquity. The Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland displays a good example of the influence of Helena. It is the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe and its iconostasis holds an icon of Saint Helena (Figure 1.) holding a cross while below stands her son Constantine the Great, (Figure 2). Helena’s power and influence continues to live on in post-modern times as can be seen from the grandeur iconostasis in the Uspenski Cathedral which receives approximately half a million visitors every year (Figure 3, Helena and Constantine are positioned on the left side of the iconostasis). Nonetheless, Helena was not only famous for the legend of the discovery of the cross, but she also left her mark of influence in other domains such as her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and sacred geography.
Helena was born in a small settlement called Drepanum, in the Gulf of Nicomedia, province of Bithynia in northern Asia Minor (today’s Hersek in Türkiye). Historian Procopius of Caesarea (c. 500 – c. 560) notes in his Buildings that her son Constantine I changed the name of the small settlement in honour of his mother and called it Helenopolis. In that context, we could presume that Helena most likely grew up as a rural Greek-speaking woman. Helena’s birth has been a subject of controversy however, the majority of scholars agree that she must have been born between 248 and 250. Her social background caused a lot of headaches for her son Constantine I (c. 272 – 377) as the first Christian emperor who was determined to create a clean imperial line for his throne and this possibly explains the silence about Helena’s background in the contemporary sources during her lifetime. It is only after Constantine’s family ceased to be in power that a pagan writer Eutropius (c. 320 – c. 390) in his work Breviarium mentions Helena’s lower social class background, as insignificant (obscuriore). Some years later Ambrose of Milan (c. 339 – c. 397) in his funerary speech for the Emperor Theodosius (d. 395), while using exegetical bible verses, adds that Helena worked as an innkeeper (stabularia). In his speech, Ambrose creates a new model of a Christian pious empress by adding further that only after meeting Constantine’s father Constantius, (a Roman high-ranking military officer) Helena’s life was transformed “from dung to royalty” (de stercore ad regnum).” Furthermore, Ambrose adds the adjective good (bona) several times to emphasize that even female innkeepers can be of ‘good’ character.
The relationship and marriage between Helena and Constantius is another complex matter since early sources write that she was his wedded wife (uxor) and also concubine (concubina). For example, Jerome (347 – 420) in his Chronicle interchangeably uses both titles. In Roman custom, high-ranking men were permitted to take women from the lower social class and marry them, including as concubines. However, the legality behind these unions was more complex since men were also permitted to discard their concubines if a more advantageous possibility dawned. Helena gave birth to Constantine on 27th of February 272 or 273 in Naissus (today’s Niš, Serbia). The couple seem to have had a stable relationship until 289 when Constantius, to advance his military and political career, deposed or “cast aside” Helena to marry Theodora, the daughter of the Emperor Maximian (r. 286-305). By observing how Helena’s relationship ended with Constantine’s father there is a high likelihood that she was his concubine. Scholar Julia Hillner notes that after this event Helena vanished from the public eye and we only hear of Helena again after thirty years of silence when her son Constantine becomes the Emperor in 306. Helena was at least sixty years old when she came to the Roman court and was titled Nobilissima Femina. However, in the autumn of 324, after Constantine assumed control over the entire Roman Empire, he honoured Helena with the title AUGUSTA, jointly with his wife Fausta. After Helena’s arrival to the court, she worked closely with her son to ensure his dynasty would prosper and endure, as a mother and an empress she was Constantine’s “partner in reign”.
Helena’s religious background and her interest in and conversion to Christianity is another controversial and disputable topic. For example, a hypothesis was proposed by J. Vogt in 1963 that Helena was of Jewish descent. Vogt’s main argument was based on a legendary text Actus Silvestri, written in the second part of the fifth century. The text’s overarching theme is Christian dominance over the pagan and Jewish religions in Rome. The text suggests that Helena was first disappointed with Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, implying that she was an adherent to Judaism. Jan W. Drijvers indicates these types of legendary texts began to circulate in Rome in the fifth century to display the wrongness of Jewish religion and show the correctness of Christianity, and Actus Silvestri was likely a fiction work of this kind. Eusebius on the other hand, states that Constantine converted his mother to Christianity by saying: “…he made her Godfearing, though she had not been such before,…” Implying that Constantine was responsible for Helena’s conversation. This is a feasible possibility however, it should be understood in the larger social context of the empire. 312 was a period when Constantine began to display sympathy toward the Christian religion and therefore, his household would have culturally followed. However, evidence in c. 325 does point to Helena’s piety when she decided to convert one of her palace rooms into a private chapel. Another interesting fact about Helena’s religious life is that she quite likely became an adherent of Arian Christianity. Her sympathy towards the martyr Lucian of Antioch (c.240 – 312) whom she venerated in her birthplace Helenopolis, and who was also a teacher of Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia suggests that Helena had a high respect towards Arianism.
Primary sources about Helena’s life are scattered across decades and centuries and were often turned into legends. For example, Church Histories of Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 345–411) written just several decades later present a legendary and elevated status of Helena’s life, specifically the legend of the cross. There are also Roman historians such as Aurelius Victor, Eutropius and Zosimus who wrote in passing about Helena and various epigraphic, numismatic, and archaeological evidence to enable us to learn more about her life. The most valuable source comes from Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/65 – c.339) in his biography on Constantine I called Vita Constantini (henceforth VC). The biography is written ten years after Helena’s death and Eusebius in book III dedicates paragraphs 42 to 47 to Helena’s travel in the eastern provinces of the empire. Because Eusebius was the metropolitan bishop of Caesarea (a region in the Holy Land) during her journey 327/28, he likely accompanied Helena on her travel. It is important to note that Eusebius as a bishop was pro-Arian which stood in opposition to the orthodox Nicaean form of Christianity. The battle between the Arian vs Nicaean understanding of Jesus’ divine position to God, the Father had been at the centre of Constantine and Helena’s lives. The difficulty with Eusebius’ VC as Jan W. Drijvers mentions was a written biography that was designed to portray “a one-sided and favourable picture of Constantine’s reign” and this was too often regarded as an unreliable source in scholarship however, this picture has been evolving in recent decades. For example, Helena is presented as a pious Christian empress that bore a son who was preordained by God to rule over the Christian empire in harmony. If we take the VC with ‘certain caution’ it still remains the most important first-hand source about Helena’s life, her influence and the legacy she left behind.
Helena’s Influence on the Pilgrimage to the Holy Land or the Imperial Political Influence?
Helena’s visit to the Holy Land is the most documented part of her life and her interest to visit the area had two overarching reasons. The first one was inspired by piety to visit the locations where Jesus Christ was born and crucified, while the second reason was to strengthen the imperial and political influence of her son’s reign in the eastern part of the empire. The pilgrimage to the Holy Land began after the Council of Nicaea. It is only after the council that Constantine’s interest in the biblical sites grew exponentially, subsequently, Helena’s pilgrimage began in the late summer of 326. This was an official tour where imperial delegates followed Helena’s carriage travelling from Rome to Jerusalem by land travelling for at least one month. During the journey, Eusebius presents Helena in a pious manner, as an empress that was motivated by her devotion to Christianity. He says that Helena “… accorded suitable adoration to the footsteps of the Saviour, following the prophetic word which says, `Let us adore in the place where his feet have stood’ (Ps 132/131: 7), she forthwith bequeathed to her successors also the fruit of her personal piety.” Furthermore, Helena made sure to adorn “the places of worship with shining treasures, not neglecting the shrines in even the smallest of towns.” Eusebius also adds another intriguing detail about Helena’s earnest prayer for her family members while on pilgrimage. This was interpreted as though Helena was grieving after Constantine put to death his wife Fausta and his first son Crispus, who was a son of Constantine’s concubine Minervina, and a very dear grandson to Helena. There is no doubt that Helena was intrigued and touched by the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and had personal reasons for the visit however, primary sources also reveal that she exercised power.
Helena did not travel as a humble pilgrim but as an Augusta in an official state capacity, indicating that her journey was meant to display imperial authority and leave influence behind. Eusebius comments that Helena was pardoning and releasing prisoners under the “imperial authority” (basilikes exousías). Hillner argues that this was “an unprecedented power for an empress, dangerously crossing into the legal, and therefore male, sphere.” Furthermore, Eusebius also adds that Constantine “even remitted to her authority over imperial treasuries, to use them at will and to manage them at her discretion,…” thus giving Helena full power of the imperial treasure. Therefore, Helena was able to distribute donations not only to the poor but also to rebellious soldiers who had belonged to Constantine’s rival Licinius, in order to conciliate the eastern military units and ensure their loyalty to her son. It seems that Helena was in full support of Constantine’s reign and as a trusted mother, she exercised her power and influence while never diverging from her son’s policies. Her journey to the Holy Land, whether for pilgrimage or political reasons, certainly was influential since it is considered the cornerstone for the future women pilgrims to the Holy Land who followed after her, namely Paula, Eustochium, Melania, Melania the Younger among many others.
On her pilgrimage, Helena also got involved in a theological dispute. She passed through the city of Antioch where she was offended by a bishop Eustathius of Antioch (d. 360). Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296/98 – 373) a chief defender of the Nicaean formula of the Trinity, and a staunch opposer to Arianism, while in exile in 357 recalls the moment when Eustathius offends Constantine’s mother by saying:
“There was one Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch, a Confessor, and sound in the Faith. This man, because he was very zealous for the truth, and hated the Arian heresy, and would not receive those who adopted its tenets, is falsely accused before the Emperor Constantine, and a charge invented against him, that he had insulted his mother.”
This has raised eyebrows in scholarly discussion. Was Helena here insulted because of her lower social status as an ‘innkeeper’ or because she leaned towards Arian Christianity? Eustathius was a strong opponent of Arianism just as Athanasius was. We may never know for certain, due to the one-sided angle of the story being told here. Helena, as a woman in power who had the full support of her son after this incident did not oppose Eustathius’ banishment and that of his companions imposed by Constantine. As we can see Athanasius’ words do not describe Helena as a favourable empress for the orthodox cause and this could have been due to her leaning towards Arianism, since other Theodosian empresses after her also promoted and supported it. Helena was fully involved in the theological disputes of her time however, and some bishops did not appreciate women’s contribution as this kind of work was deemed only for men.
Helena’s Influence on Sacred Geography and the Legend of the Discovery of the Cross
While in Jerusalem, Helena was responsible for overseeing the progress of building religious sites initiated by Constantine. The creation of new churches over the pagan temples was an important aspect of Constantine’s strategy to reinforce his acceptance of the new religion. The primary locations were the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Eusebius tells us that after her arrival in Jerusalem, Helena “immediately consecrated to the God she adored two shrines, one by the cave of his birth, the other on the mountain of the ascension.” This has been often interpreted as though Helena built these two churches although, Eusebius in another section of VC also tells us that Constantine built these two churches as well as the Holy Sepulchre. Female pilgrim Egeria can shine more light on this confusion. She visited the Holy Land between 381 to 384 and in her pilgrim memoir she states that Constantine built the churches “under the supervision of his mother, it was decorated with gold, mosaic, and precious marble, as much as his empire could provide”. Helena showed great interest in sites that were connected with various stages of Christ’s life, and she most likely supervised the progress of these churches that were part of a larger imperial project initiated by Constantine. Helena left a mark of patronage by visiting the sites associated with the Nativity, Crucifixion and Ascension and leaving various treasures to show her full support.
The legend of the discovery of the cross or inventio crucis is closely associated with the church of the Holy Sepulchre and Helena Augusta. When Helena arrived in Jerusalem in 328, The Holy Sepulchre was already in an advanced stage of construction which had started in 325, this would make it difficult for Helena to dig out the relic if the basic foundations were already in place. The first mention of the wooden relic in a shape of a cross comes from Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313 – 386). In his instruction to catechumens dated to the early 350s Cyril says “…, here is Golgotha to confute me, near which we are now assembled; the wood of the Cross confutes me, which was afterwards distributed piecemeal from hence to all the world.” Cyril reveals that the relic was already known to exist by the 350s in Jerusalem and was distributed around the world. By contrast, Eusebius, who wrote so extensively about the Holy Sepulchre does not mention the discovery of the cross at all. This has raised questions in scholarly circles if Eusebius purposefully omitted finding of the cross in his writing due to his opposition to the veneration of relics, or possibly he did not know of it while still writing VC, written shortly after Constantine died in 337.
Ancient sources close to Helena’s time do not mention that Helena discovered the cross. It is Ambrose over fifty years later, who credits Helena with the finding of the cross and the nails in the funerary oration to Emperor Theodosius in 395. He says that Helena was inspired by the Holy Spirit to find the cross from the rubbles of Golgotha and as she found it “The wood shone, and grace sparkled, because just as previously Christ had visited a woman in the person of Mary, so now the Spirit visited a woman in the person of Helena.” Ambrose’s oration was designed to create a theological imperial succession, something like the physical one (hereditas fidei), whereby finding the cross Helena rescues the emperors and makes them adherents of the Christian faith. Ambrose also says, “Mary was visited to set Eve free; Helena was visited so that emperors should be redeemed.” Drijvers argues that here Ambrose elevates Helena to a higher position than her son, as though Helena Christianised the empire and not Constantine. According to Ambrose, Helena becomes the second Mary. Here we have a theological comparison of Mary and Helena to convince the audience that through Mary salvation has come in the birth of Jesus Christ so through Helena the discovery and the rebirth of Christ’s cross the new Christian empire is established. The legend of the discovery of the cross and subsequently ‘new Helena’ has been created by Ambrose. After Ambrose many other legends of the cross and how Helena found it have developed in the subsequent decades and centuries. Some of these developed from the early fifth century are of Rufinus, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Paulinus of Nola and Sulpicius Severus, all with different variations and additions that were carried into the Middle Ages and are known to us until today.
The last days of Helena’s life are summoned by Eusebius:
“When she had finally completed the course of a long enough life, and was called to the higher sphere, having lived to something like 80 years of age, …Having settled her affairs in this way, she finally came to the end of her life… a son was present and stood by her, ministering and holding her hands,… Her very soul was thus reconstituted into an incorruptible and angelic essence as she was taken up to her Saviour.”
Helena died peacefully, in late 328 surrounded by her family when she was in her eighties. She received full imperial honour and was laid to rest at the mausoleum of Helena, (Via Labicana) in Rome built by Constantine in honour of his mother.
Helena is venerated as a saint jointly with Constantine, in the Orthodox churches on the 21st of May. This date was set to commemorate the death of Constantine. While in the Catholic church, Helena’s saint day falls on the 18th of August. In the West, she was separated from her son since Constantine was not recognized as a saint. Helena managed to influence many spheres of our world, and this cannot be underestimated. She came out of obscurity as an innkeeper from the lower class of society to become an empress of the Roman Empire. Due to her devotion to Christianity, she became the pioneer of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was subsequently connected with the legend of the discovery of the cross. Furthermore, because of Ambrose’s theological oration, she became a future model, a ‘new Helena’ for other empresses to follow. Finally, due to the inseparable family connection between Helena and Constantine, they gradually emerged through veneration to sainthood. If you find yourself one day standing in the opulent Uspenski Cathedral gazing at magnificent iconostasis, please take a moment to find Helena and ponder on the power and influence that she held in her lifetime that remains influential today.
To cite this article:
Gillham, Dina, “Helena” in Women of Power and Influence in Late Antiquity (blog). 11 May 2023. https://blogs.helsinki.fi/power-influence-women-late-antiquity/?p=366&preview=true
Photo courtesy of the Staff of Uspenski Cathedral Helsinki, Finland. 2023. “Iconostasis of the Uspenski Cathedral with Helena and Constantine on the northern side, second row.”
Ambrose. “Ambrose of Milan: Political Letters and Speeches.” edited by J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz and Carole Hill. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005.
Aquilea, Rufinus of. “The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia, Books 10 and 11.” edited by Philip R. Amidon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Athanasius. “Historia Arianorum Ad Monachos.” In NPNF Vol.2/4, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, n.d.
Cyril of Jerusalem. “The Catechetical Lectures.” In NPNF Vol.2/7, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, n.d.
Egeria. “Egeria’s Travels to the Holy Land.” edited by John Wilkinson. Jerusalem, London: Ariel Publishing House, 1981.
Eusebius. Life of Constantine. Edited by Averil Cameron and G. Stuart Hall. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Procopius. On Buildings. Edited by H. B. Dewing and Glanville Downey. Loeb Class. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1940.
Angelova, Diliana N. Sacred Founders : Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome Through Early Byzantium. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2015.
Alexandridis, Annetta. “Exklusiv Oder Bürgernah? Die Frauen Des Römischen Kaiserhauses Im Bild.” Kunst, Riemer, 2000, 9–18.
Drijvers, Jan Willem. “Helena Augusta, the Cross and the Myth: Some New Reflections.” Millennium 8, no. 2011 (2011): 125–74. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110236453.125/HTML.
———. Helena Augusta. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992.
———. “Helena Augusta and the City of Rome.” In Monuments & Memory: Christian Cult Buildings and Constructions of the Past: Essays in Honour of Sible de Blaauw. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2016.
Falcasantos, Rebecca Stephens. “Wandering Wombs, Inspired Intellects: Christian Religious Travel in Late Antiquity.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 25, no. 1 (2017): 89–117. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1353/earl.2017.0003.
Hillner, Julia. Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023.
Jensen, Robin Margaret. The Cross : History, Art, and Controversy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017.
Kajava, Mika. “Some Remarks on the Name and the Origin of Helena Augusta.” Arctos–Acta Philologica Fennica XIX (1985): 41–55.
Pohlsander, Hans A. Helena: Empress and Saint. Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1995.
“Uspenski Cathedral – Main Cathedral of the Orthodox Parish of Helsinki and the Diocese of Helsinki — Helsingin Ortodoksinen Seurakunta.” Accessed April 25, 2023. https://www.hos.fi/en/uspenski-cathedral-main-cathedral-of-the-orthodox-parish-of-helsinki-and-the-diocese-of-helsinki/.
 In Latin it reads “Regina orbis ac mater imperii” in Rufinus of Aquilea, “The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia, Books 10 and 11,” ed. Philip R. Amidon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 18. Also Julia Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023), 202.
 “Uspenski Cathedral – Main Cathedral of the Orthodox Parish of Helsinki and the Diocese of Helsinki — Helsingin Ortodoksinen Seurakunta,” accessed April 25, 2023, https://www.hos.fi/en/uspenski-cathedral-main-cathedral-of-the-orthodox-parish-of-helsinki-and-the-diocese-of-helsinki/.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 18. See also Jan Willem Drijvers, Helena Augusta (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992), 9-10. Diliana N. Angelova, Sacred Founders : Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome Through Early Byzantium (Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2015), 143. Mika Kajava, “Some Remarks on the Name and the Origin of Helena Augusta,” Arctos–Acta Philologica Fennica XIX (1985): 52-3.
 Procopius, On Buildings, ed. H. B. Dewing and Glanville Downey, Loeb Class (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1940), 5.2.1– 5.
Though, Procopius carefully notes that it is a rumour (phásis) about Helena’s birth city however, no other earlier historians elaborate on the name-change from Drepanum to Helenopolis, some scholars consider that the rumour was most likely true. See further in Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 18, 20. and Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 9-10.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 14 and also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 21.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 21.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 15.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 28.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 16 and also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 28.
 This line of work in inn’s and stables was considered of a low social class and in late antiquity and was associated with different types of servitude, including sexual ones. More on this in Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 15-16 and Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 28-30.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 17 and also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 35-6.
 Julia Hillner gives an in depth explanation about Roman concubinage legal system. In Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 35-9. Also Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 17-19.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 18-9, and also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 48.
 With that in mind there is also no primary sources that discuss about Helena and Constantine’s relationship, we can only speculate if she was with him during his upbringing as it is quite possible that Constantius acknowledged him as a legitimate son and took him under his guardianship. Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 48-9.
 It is after the battle of Chrysopolis when Constantine defeated Licinius that he honoured both women with ‘Augusta’ title. This was stamped on various minted coins to display Constantine as a divinely inspired emperor and to confirm that Helena and Fausta are pillars of motherhood for the new Constantinian dynasty. More on this in Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 41-42. About Helena’s age as ‘Augusta’ see Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 21, 50.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 247-8.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 36-8, Kajava, “Some Remarks on the Name and the Origin of Helena Augusta,” 50-1.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 37.
 Ibid., 37-8.
 Ibid., 37.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ed. Averil Cameron and G. Stuart Hall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), Book III. 46.2, p. 139.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 166-7.
 Angelova, Sacred Founders : Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome Through Early Byzantium, 143. Also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 18-9 and Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 38.
 Aquilea, “The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia, Books 10 and 11,” Book 10:7-8. Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 79-93.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 3-5.
 A good translation in English with commentary is Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ed. Averil Cameron and G. Stuart Hall (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) which is based on the Greek text of Winkelmann’s edition.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 3 and also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 4-5.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, 3 and also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 206.
 A good discussion on the value of VC can be found in introduction part at Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ed. Averil Cameron and G. Stuart Hall.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 206.
 Ibid., 204.
 Ibid., 215-6, 220.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Book III.42.2, p. 137.
 Eusebius, Book III.45, p. 138.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 60-2. Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire,209-210.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Book III. 42 -43, p. 137.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 211.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Book III. 46.3., p. 139.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 212 and Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 70.
 Rebecca Stephens Falcasantos, “Wandering Wombs, Inspired Intellects: Christian Religious Travel in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 25, no. 1 (2017): 99-100. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1353/earl.2017.0003,
 Athanasius, “Historia Arianorum Ad Monachos,” in NPNF Vol.2/4, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, n.d., part 4, p. 739.
 Further discussion on this topic see Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 207-8, also Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 71 and Kajava, “Some Remarks on the Name and the Origin of Helena Augusta,” 43-4.
 Athanasius, “Historia Arianorum Ad Monachos,” part 4, p. 739. Also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 207, footnote 9, 229 and Kajava, “Some Remarks on the Name and the Origin of Helena Augusta,” 43-4.
 Kajava, “Some Remarks on the Name and the Origin of Helena Augusta,”44 and Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 207-8.
 The tomb of Christ where later the church of the Holy Sepulchre was built, prior to this there was a temple dedicated to Aphrodite or Roman equivalent Venus. The cave in Bethlehem was unreachable due to a sacred wood dedicated to Adonis. More on this topic in Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 231, 241.
 Angelova, Sacred Founders : Women, Men, and Gods in the Discourse of Imperial Founding, Rome Through Early Byzantium, 144.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Book III.43.1, p. 137.
 Eusebius, Book III.41.1, p. 137. Also Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 63. Regarding the Sepulchre it is for certain that Constantine already started building the church after the Nicaean council in 325 therefore, by the time Helena arrived in 328 the church was already in the advance stage, so she could not be the founder of the Holy Sepulchre. In Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 232.
 Egeria, “Egeria’s Travels to the Holy Land,” ed. John Wilkinson (Jerusalem, London: Ariel Publishing House, 1981), 25.9, p., 127.
 The complex is divided in two parts; the tomb where Jesus was buried and resurrected, called the Anastasis and the foot of the Golgotha hill where Jesus was crucified, called Martyrium. More on this in Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 231-2.
 Robin Margaret Jensen, The Cross : History, Art, and Controversy (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017), 57.
 Cyril of Jerusalem, “The Catechetical Lectures,” in NPNF Vol.2/7, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, n.d., On the words, Crucified and Buried, XIII.4, p. 254.
 Jensen, The Cross : History, Art, and Controversy, 57 and also Jan Willem Drijvers, “Helena Augusta, the Cross and the Myth: Some New Reflections,” Millennium 8, no. 2011 (2011): 147-8. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110236453.125/HTML
 Jensen, The Cross : History, Art, and Controversy,57-8. Also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire,232-3, and Drijvers, “Helena Augusta, the Cross and the Myth: Some New Reflections,” 147-8.
 There are also other pilgrims at the end of the fourth century who went to Jerusalem such as the so-called
Bordeaux Pilgrim (c. 333) and also Egeria (c. 381 to 384) who do not mention Helena in connection with the cross. Further comments on this topic can be found in Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 233 and Jensen, The Cross : History, Art, and Controversy, 58-9.
 Jensen, The Cross : History, Art, and Controversy, 58-9 and Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 95.
 Ambrose, “Ambrose of Milan: Political Letters and Speeches,” ed. J.H.W.G. Liebeschuetz and Carole Hill (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2005), chapter 46, p. 199. Interestingly enough, on the Uspenski Cathedral iconostasis Helena is positioned above her son Constantine (Images 2 and 3 above). In some way, it resonates Ambrose’s speech.
 Ambrose, chapter 47, p. 200.
 Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 112.
 Drijvers, 113.
 A detailed construction of different versions of the legend of the cross and where they are similar and where they diverge in retelling the story can be found in Drijvers, 79-165.
 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, Book III. 46.1-2, p.139.
Jan Willem Drijvers, “Helena Augusta and the City of Rome,” in Monuments & Memory: Christian Cult Buildings and Constructions of the Past: Essays in Honour of Sible de Blaauw (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2016), 13, 147-8. Also Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 250-2.
 Hillner, Helena Augusta: Mother of the Empire, 347-8.