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  • Writer's picturePeter Kennedy

Saint Helen - Patron Saint of Archaeologists

St. Helen (Sometimes “Helena”) is a fascinating historical figure among the saints. Though her husband divorced her and sent her into exile for political reasons, her son remained devoted to her. As it turns out, her son was quite helpful in this predicament as she was the mother of St. Constantine who would eventually become Emperor of Rome. On the death of his father, he restored her station declaring her the Empress, a station she would use to spread the faith and influence her son on a number of occasions.

She is often credited with one of her son’s most noble acts when in 313 he issued the edict of Milan and declared that Christianity was no longer illegal in the Roman Empire. This allowed for what would eventually be known as the establishment of the Golden Age of the Church but immediately allowed Helen and many others to bring Christian charity to prisoners and the poor for which she was known to be tirelessly devoted.

Among her other noble pursuits was the pursuit of archaeology. A wise woman, she studied the history of the Holy Land and found that various governors had erected Roman temples on the Christian holy sites in open mockery. What those rulers failed to understand though, was that they had left clear markers for her archaeological pursuits. When her son desired that the true Cross of Christ be found, at the age of 80, she led a team to Jerusalem to find it. Clearly marked by the Temple to Venus, she ordered the temple leveled, finding not only the True Cross but the nails, the title above his head, the crosses of the two criminals, and the Tomb of Christ, the Holy Sepulcher.

After these discoveries, she continued these pursuits between other charitable acts, until the end of her life. She uncovered many of the other historical sites of the life of Christ, having the pagan shrines leveled and having churches erected on each of them, more than 80 in total at the time of her death in 327. For this reason St. Helen is known as the patroness of Archaeologists and is often pictured with her most precious discovery, the True Cross of Jesus Christ.

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