Saint Helena also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople (ca. 246/50 – 18 August 330) was the consort of EmperorConstantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. She is traditionally credited with finding the relics of the True Cross, with which she is often represented in Christian iconography.
Helena’s birthplace is not known with certainty. The 6th-century historian Procopius is the earliest authority for the statement that Helena was a native of Drepanum, in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her son Constantine renamed the city “Helenopolis” after her death in 330, which supports the belief that the city was her birthplace.
She is considered by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern and Roman Catholic churches, as well as by the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Churches as a saint, famed for her piety. Her feast day as a saint of the Orthodox Christian Church is celebrated with her son on 21 May, the “Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles.”
Saint Constantine the Great defeated the emperors Maxentius and Licinius during civil wars. He also fought successfully against the Franks, Alamanni, Visigoths, and Sarmatians during his reign — even resettling parts of Dacia which had been abandoned during the previous century. Constantine built a new imperial residence at Byzantium, naming it New Rome. However, in Constantine’s honor, people called it Constantinopole, which would later be the capital of what is now known as the Byzantine Empire for over one thousand years. Because of this, he is thought of as the founder of the Byzantine Empire.
Constantine is perhaps best known for being the first Roman Emperor to endorse Christianity, traditionally presented as a result of an omen — a chi-rho in the sky, with the inscription “By this sign shalt thou conquer” — before his victory in the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312, when Constantine is said to have instituted the new standard to be carried into battle, called the labarum.
Christian historians ever since Lactantius have adhered to the view that Constantine “adopted” Christianity as a kind of replacement for the official Roman paganism. Though the document called the “Donation of Constantine” was proved a forgery (though not until the 15th century, when the stories of Constantine’s conversion were long-established “facts”) it was attributed as documenting the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity for centuries. Even Christian skeptics have accepted this formulation, though seeing Constantine’s policy as a political rather than spiritual move.