Helena (empress)

Flavia Iulia Helena (* 248/250 in Drepanon, today Karamürsel, in Bithynia, † probably on August 18 at 330 in Nicomedia, now Izmit ), and Helena of Constantinople Opel, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, was by it to Augusta was appointed. In the Catholic and the Orthodox Church she is venerated as a saint.


Helena was born according to the majority opinion 248/250 in Drepanon in the province of Bithynia on the Bosporus. She came from a very humble background. The church father Ambrose of Milan wrote that she had been a good hostel landlady. In general, a low origin is assumed, but there is also the possibility that they came from upscale ratios.

She led a relationship with the Roman officer Constantius and brought 272-280 to their son Constantine to the world. Whether Constantius and Helena were married, is controversial. The two may have lived in a long-term cohabiting. Constantius Chlorus separated 289 from Helena to marry Theodora, the stepdaughter of the Emperor Maximian. He was adopted by Maximian and appointed 293 as part of the Tetrarchy to Caesar ( Under Emperor ).

After the death of Constantius Chlorus his son Constantine took over his father's army and was proclaimed by the army in what is now York Augustus (Upper Kaiser) on 25 July 306. After his accession he brought his mother to Trier.

While Constantius Chlorus Heath remained, Helena was baptized. Her son Constantine won 312 under the banner of Jesus Christ against his opponent Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge and issued the following year the Edict of Milan.

According to the testimony of Bishop Ambrose of Milan and of Eusebius Helena traveled at the age of probably 76 years to Palestine. Along the way she also made station on Cyprus, which should play a role in the efforts of the local church to autocephaly later.

In Jerusalem Helena pointed to the Bishop Makarios 326 out that according to tradition, under one built by the Romans in the 2nd century Temple of Venus must be the grave of Christ. This temple was built by the Emperor Hadrian after the Bar Kochba revolt to end the veneration of the tomb by the Christians, because even in the first 100 years after Christ's crucifixion were Golgotha ​​( the biblical site of the crucifixion ) and the approximately 40 meters away grave sites of worship for the growing community of Jewish Christians.

As Hadrian after the suppression of the uprising, Colonia Aelia Capitolina founded in the year 135 over the destroyed Jerusalem, he dedicated the city of his favorite goddess Venus and erected a great temple on the early Christian shrines on the western edge of the forum. A high terrace covered the supposed holy grave and the whole Golgotafelsen on which now raised a stele of the goddess. This artificial terrace, it is thanks to them that the two sites have been preserved.

According to legend, Helena led excavations in which, among other remains of the Cross of Christ and the place of the Holy Sepulchre were found. Helena had discovered the remains of the Cross of Christ into three parts. One-third of the cross remained in Jerusalem, a third took the Empress Dowager with him to Rome, and third she sent her son to Constantinople Opel. Whether the currently known relics actually belonged to the cross of Jesus, or even real in the sense that they at all originate from the period around AD 33, is controversial.

Above the grave and the cross discovery site were Helena and her son Constantine built a basilica, called the Holy Sepulchre. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and later destroyed Eleona ( ie Helena ) basilica on the Mount of Olives go back to Helena. In addition, she is also founder of many other churches in and around Jerusalem and other places.

Helena will also be attributed to the discovery and entrainment of the relics of the Three Kings. First, the relics were family owned and were later given away to Bishop Eustorgius. They eventually came to Milan until they have been sent by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in the Cologne Cathedral. The tissue obtained show great similarity to compare pieces from Syria for the New Age.

As the date of death of Helen the years are given 329-335. 329 is the year of death most likely because after that no more coins were minted with her name. She died on August 18, so probably 329 in Nicomedia ( Izmit ).


The Memorial of St.. Helena is in the Roman Catholic Church August 18, in the Orthodox, Armenian, Anglican Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church May 21, in the Coptic Church May 4.

Today, the relics of the saint rest in a large porphyry tub under an octagonal altar structure in the left transept of the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome. In Trier Cathedral, the main Helena is revered as a relic. This gave Emperor Charles IV to the Archbishop of Trier.

The hl. Helena applies, inter alia as a patron saint of Nagelschmiede (because of the traditional discovery of the Cross Nails of Christ, of which the Bamberg Cathedral, one is venerated in the Holy Lance to Vienna and another in the Roman church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme as a relic ). Moreover, their intercession against bad weather and fire danger is implored. The Memorial is one of the self- festivals of the Equestrian Order of the Holy grave in Jerusalem.

Saint Helena churches are located for example in:

  • Rheindahlen ( Catholic)
  • Viersen Helena Brunn ( Catholic)
  • Bonn, Helen Chapel
  • Lasel / Eifel, ( Catholic Parish )
  • Schmalkalden ( Catholic)

Located in the South Atlantic island of St. Helena is named after the Holy Emperor and mother, as well as other cities (Santa Helena ).

Earlier it was the hl. Helena often with the Welsh Saint Helen of Caernarfon ( Welsh: Elen Luyddawg ) confused, although they also had a son named Constantine, but lived sixty years ago Flavia Iulia Helena.


One of the most famous depictions of the saints is one of the four main pillars of the dome of St. Peter 's Basilica. A 1639 created monumental statue of Andrea Bolgi shows Helena with the Cross of Christ. In addition there is a chapel with balcony, in 1629 on the instructions of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, the largest preserved in Rome piece of the cross from the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme was transferred.

The shape of the Helena also appears in pictorial representations of the nine good heroines, she is in this iconographic series a representative of Christianity.


The term "by Konstantin Opel " is not antique. It dates from the time of the Crusades, when you move the Empress in the geographical proximity of the Christian Byzantine Empire and the city of Constantine wanted to bring in connection with the saints. In fact, Helena has to do with Constantine Opel little. Neither she was born in Constantinople, Opel, nor has she lived there for a long time. Your center of life was rather in Trier.


  • Paul Dräger (ed.): History of the origin and youth of Constantine the Great and his mother Helena. Latin / German, 2, exp. Ed, Kliomedia, Trier 2010, ISBN 978-3-89890-152-9.
  • Paul Dräger (ed.): biography, or rather sermon by St.. Helena according to the authorship Almanns. Latin / German. From the Acta Sanctorum (1737/1867), compared with the handwriting of the city library Trier, Kliomedia, Trier 2007, ISBN 978-3-89890-113-0.