Anyone who has visited Quondam's current schizophrenia + architectures exhibit probably already knows that I was born 20 March 1956 (less than four hours before the vernal equinox that year), and that my schizophrenic brother Otto was laterally lobotomized 20 March 1980 (coincidentally in the new version of the same hospital where I was born). Sometime in April 1998 I learned that the 20th of March in ancient Rome was the dies sanguinis, the day of blood, and this prompted me to write a short piece entitled "dies sanguinis" at xxx.htm.
The equinox is when night equals day, and there are two equinoxes, but do the two equinoxes equal each other?
20 September 1999:
I receive a package in the mail which contains one of the several books I've lately been successfully bidding on at eBay. The book is Wonders of Italy, Rome, Eternally Beautiful, a dense little guide book from 1937 with 1045 illustrations and lots of interesting facts; I'm very happy with this purchase. In my initial scan through the book, I look to see what it says about Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, the church which is built upon St. Helena's private chapel that was within the Sessorian Palace. The guidebook entry reads:
"Santa Croce, one of the 'Seven Churches' of Rome, owes its origin to the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, who in her zeal for Christianity made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and brought back a collection of relics, including a portion of the Saviour's cross, for the purpose of forming a pilgrim's shrine for those who could not afford time and money for the journey to the Holy Land. The church she founded, was probably a hall of the Sessorian palace in which she resided; it was called Basilica Heleniana, or Sessoriana. The primitive church was rebuilt by Pope Lucius II, in 1114, and modernized in 1743 by Gregorini, who added the baroque facade. The campanile dates from 1196.
The sacred relics preserved in the church include a part of the cross and of its inscription, one of the nails, thorns from the crown, and the finger with which St. Thomas convinced himself of the reality of the wound in the side of Christ. The tribune is covered with frescos representing the Discovery of the Cross. The oldest part of the church is the chapel of St. Helena in the crypt (ladies are not admitted except on the festival of the saint, March 20), the floor of which is built upon a soil composed of earth from Jerusalem." [I know nothing about this 20 March "festival of the saint," but I'd sure like to know more. Furthermore, who dares doubt the relic existence of doubting Thomas' finger!?!]
21 September 1999:
I again receive a package in the mail which contains one of the several books I've lately been successfully bidding on at eBay, and this one is entitled Das Weib in der Antiken Kunst (Woman in Antique Art), 1914. At night I went through the book page by page looking at the many splendid black and white photographs depicting woman in ancient art, that is, primarily on vases and in sculpture. To my surprise, the last image is the sculpted head of Heilige Helena, Saint Helena. I have never seen this image before, and indeed the only ancient image of Helena that I thought was presently available was that of her profile on ancient coins issued during her lifetime as empress. I was immediately struck that the head of Helena (which in 1914 was, and I assume still is) in Copenhagen and the colossal head of Constantine within the courtyard of the Conservatory Palace in Rome both have the exact same eyes.
22 September 1999:
Early in the morning I receive an email from amazon.com that they have successfully tracked down an out-of-print book I ordered almost a half year ago, Hans A. Pohlsander's Helena: Empress and Saint. Later in the afternoon I receive a phone call from my mother, and she tells me that she had to take Otto to the emergency room in the middle of the night. I became immediately upset for several reasons, 1) Otto's recent panic attacks of this year seem to getting worst, 2) why did my mother not call me when it happened, 3) I got upset because I didn't expect myself to get so upset. I had been with Otto earlier that evening when he called and asked if I would pick him up and bring him to my house to then listen to some CDs. This is usually what Otto and I do when he feels a panic attack coming on or when an attack is already in progress, in fact he and I did the same thing the night before. My mother simply didn't want to bother me again, and she felt she could handle the emergency room situation on her own.
23 September 1999:
Lying restlessly in bed during the hours before the autumnal equinox (7:31 am edt 23 September 1999), I think of all the varying instances mentioned above. Of course, I'm surprised and glad to "see" all these new Helena "signs", especially since I'm not even working on her subject matter at this time. And then it dawns on me that Otto was again in an emergency room at a time close to an equinox. And then I think of how my brother not only has his schizophrenic cross to bear, but how he is now a cross for my mother and for me as well. And then I think how my mother still has such strength in her old age (she's 75). And then I think how Helena too had great strength in her old age (she traveled to the Holy Land in her late 70s). And then I think that maybe St. Helena is watching over my brother and my mother. And then I remember that St. Helena is the patron saint of miners, stemming from the ancient account of Eusebius that Helena, on her journey to and from the Holy Land, released (supposedly Christian) prisoners from the mines. And then I remember that my mother was once a post WWII civilian prison of war in Russia for five years, and during those years my mother, Rosa, was indeed a coal miner. And then I decided to write this letter.
Are the two equinoxes the same? I'd say they are exactly the same, but inverted in a fashion that only equinoxes can be.
the two Elenis
Two of the architects I met almost immediately in Brussels at the INSIDE DENSITY colloquium were both named Eleni--Eleni Gigantes and Eleni Kostika. We were members of the same "Thinking Density" session, and they presented their paper--Greece: Seasonal Densities, Built Density, Landscape Saturation -- the ongoing transformation of a country through tourism--after I presented my paper. Upon hearing their talk, it wasn't difficult to see that our two papers had some strong similarities in that what happened in Greece vis-à-vis 'constructed' tourism comes very close to what Piranesi did within the Campo Marzio vis-à-vis reenactment. I quickly mentioned this similarity to the two Elenis in-between two of the subsequent papers, and then, during the session break, the three of us had a lengthy discussion regarding "what is reenactment?". I used Princess Diana's funeral as an easy example of ancient Rome's triumphal way being reenacted, and also said that modern Greece may in some circumstances be trying to reenact its ancient glory as an ingredient for tourism. Eleni Kostika still questioned the notion of reenactment, however, and offered that perhaps anything (or everything?) is indeed a reenactment of something. In the midst of all this, we found ourselves talking about Thanksgiving Day in the USA (actually it was Thanksgiving Day, but we were in Brussels), and it quickly dawned on Eleni Gigantes that Thanksgiving Day is a huge reenactment (if not the biggest reenactment within the United States).
I then turned the conversation into something the two Elenis did not expect, namely my work this year involving St. Helena, and my thesis that she was the first master architect of Christianity. Eleni is the original rendition of the name Helena, and I told Eleni and Eleni that they had no idea how thrilled I was to be sitting in Brussels having just met two architects named Eleni, and to be discussing architecture and reenactment with them. Of course, I gave them a quick synopsis of my thesis, and Eleni Gigantes absorbed it all most agreeably, while Eleni Kostika seemed to remain somewhat circumspect.
Just before going to Brussels, I had come to the conclusion that for me to effectively write about St. Helena's role as first master architect of Christianity, I had to concede that I, like many before me, would be writing yet another legend of St. Helena. Today, legends are usually thought of as popular myths (with myth being the operative word), but, by its first definition, a legend is indeed the story of the life of a saint. In either case, meeting Eleni and Eleni, two woman architects, in Brussels is a big part of my legend of St. Helena.
That night, as I lay sleepless in my hotel room, I thought about the strange coincidence of meeting two Elenis, and first I thought of the 'odd' and rare double early Christian basilicas that were built towards the end of Helena's life (the last of which still stands as (the many times rebuilt) double churches in Trier, Germany). And then I wondered whether Eleni Gigantes and Eleni Kostika, since both are architects, offer any insight into St. Helena's personality. And then I wondered whether a combination of Eleni Gigantes and Eleni Kostika provides a real glimpse of St. Helena.
sylvester is not there
's journal NOT THERE now contains "The Life of Pope Sylvester".
The Life of Pope Sylvester
THE BOOK OF THE POPES
Louise Ropes Loomis, Ph. D
This centuries old text on the life of St. Sylvester, selected from the Liber Pontificalis, for the most part contains the only record that fully describes ancient Rome's first Christian basilicas as erected during the reign of Constantine the Great, and quite likely erected under the architectural/planning supervision of Constantine's mother, the Empress Helena, otherwise known as St. Helena.
Along with naming each Church, a list of all the Churches' interior fittings are given as well, along with lists of the estates throughout the Roman Empire that provided sustaining income for the Churches. Additionally, one can well imagine that many of the gold and silver altars, vessels and light fixtures of these Christian basilicas were made from melted down Pagan Temple furnishings.
The text of the life of St. Sylvester is here offered in its entirety, and the hyperlinks throughout the text correspond to all the Loomis footnotes.
Hebron (almost 1700 years ago)
Hebron is biblically famous for two sites, the place where an Angel of God first appeared and spoke with Abraham, and the place where Abraham and his family are buried. Both places were then called Marne.
At a later time (c. 324) when Helena Augusta (St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great) was building (the first) Christian churches at the sites of the Nativity (where Christ was born) and of the Ascension (where Christ rose into Heaven), Eutropia, Constantine's mother-in-law was restoring the sites at Hebron (which apparently were in complete disregard at that time). These obscure facts are recorded by Eusebius in his Life of Constantine.
The role of Eutropia as a Christian is quite remarkable because her husband, the (co-)emperor Maximian (ruler in the western Empire while Diocletian ruled the eastern empire) was perhaps the most notorious persecutor of Christians in the decades just prior to the rule of Constantine. Moreover, it is strange to consider that Helena and Eutropia may have been acting as a team. Eutopia was not only (second) mother-in-law to Constantine, but also the (second) mother-in-law of Constantine's father, Constantius, who after divorcing Helena married (Eutropia's daughter) Theodora. And finally, Eutropia's Christian mission would seem altogether most unlikely because her husband Maximian and her son, the usurptive emperor Maxentius, both died trying to resist Constantine.
I mention all this because I find it fascinating that after the leading men of the early fourth century Roman empire where busy fighting and killing each other, the leading women of the early fourth century Roman empire were busy building churches and restoring holy sites. Very metabolic.
9 November 312 or 318
In preparation for my next post regarding the Constantinian Christian basilicas of Rome I planned to collate data from The New Empire of Diocletian and Constantine (Timothy D. Barnes, 1982) which contains an excellent chronological list of "Imperial Residences and Journeys" of all the Augusti and Caesars from Diocletian to Constantine inclusive with data from Corpus Basilicarum Christianum Romae (Krautheimer), plus refer to a chronology focusing on Helena that I compiled in 1999.
I already found one mistake from my previous post that must be corrected. The first born of Constantine and Fausta, Constantine II, was born 7 August 316, thus there were no children of Constantine other than Crispus alive in 312. Constantine II was born in Arles. (Approximately nine months earlier Constantine was at Trier, 11 January 316 (and before that at Milan 19 October 315). [I'm now asking myself if Constantine's family moved around with him. Was there any move to Rome by family members immediately 28 October 312? I believe there is at least the possibility that Eutropia and even Fausta may have wished to see Rome again after spending the previous four to five years at Trier.]
But here's what really surprised me as I began looking through a set of photocopies from the Corpus Basilicarum Christianum Romae that I made in spring 1999:
[referring the Basilica Constantiniani] Construction need not have taken many years. The huge Basilica Nova [another building] with its time-consuming vaulting system was built and completely decorated in four or five years; and we shall see that at St. Peter's construction and interior decoration were presumably completed in the course of six to eight years. The Lateran basilica, being smaller than St. Peter's, might well have been built and finished within five or six years. dates given for the consecration are numerous, varying from 315 to 324, but they are never based on any sources. The Martyrologium Romanum gives November 9 as the feast day of the basilica, "Romae dedicatio Basilicae Salvatoris". However, as pointed out by Lauer, the date occurs first in the second version of the Descriptio Ecclesiae Lateranensis, 1153-1154: "Cuius dedicatio per totum orbum quinto idus novembris...celebratur...". By that time, then, the tradition was well established, but we do not know how far back it went It is certainly older than the twelfth century, but it does not occur in the early sacramentaries and martyrologia dating from the fifth to ninth century. Is it, then, the date of a reconsecration after the rebuilding by Sergius III (904-911)? This is possible, but it is equally possible that the tradition springs from a fourth century root. We leave the question open. In any event, no year is given. However, it is curious that in the reigns of Constantine and Sylvester, November 9 falls on a Sunday -- since the Middle Ages the customary day for church consecrations -- only four times: 312, 318, 329, 335. The last two dates can be dispensed with: the period of construction [beginning from] 313 or 314 would be too long. However, 318 would be a very plausible date for the consecration of the church. Or should we stress the choice of the word dedicatio, rather than consecratio, by the sources? Dedicatio in Roman legal language is the act of handing over or ceding -- dedere -- an object, be it real estate or something else, to a deity; the act of consecratio follows, once the object has been installed or the shrine, temple or whatever, has been built. Is it possible, then, that November 9, 312, not quite two weeks after his conquest of Rome, was the day Constantine ceded to Christ the terrain on which the basilica was to be built and made the endowment for its future maintenance, in servitio luminum?
(from page 90 of one of the volumes of Corpus Basilicarum Christianum Romae -- sorry I don't have the exact reference at hand)
It's kind of funny to realize just how much of the above could be absolutely wrong. And at the same time it's also kind of funny that I happened to write about the Lateran basilica on November 9, 2000. To be honest, I've been thinking about writing that opening post regarding the Constantinian Christian basilicas since last Friday (November 3) because that's when my memory was struck by the notion that we just passed the Milvian Bridge battle anniversary, and at that time I was in the shower thinking about Marcus' Halloween post. Marcus' post made me rethink/remember about all the strange coincidences that I encounter throughout 1999 from the very beginnings of my St. Helena research (see 21 May 1999 or 23 September 1999 in the architecthetics archive for prime examples).
This coincidence today actually bothers me because it is just too weird, and it makes me think about a lot of stuff that I wouldn't think of otherwise. Augury can be strange and deceiving. Like Maxentius, who on 28 October 312 entered confidently into battle because it was the anniversary of his rise to power in Rome, you can turn out being completely wrong. Or, like Constantine, you can see the 'sign', act on it, and turn out to be the winner. Personally, I'm not even sure I want to be involved with any of this stuff anymore. It's getting to be just a little too "spooky."
I'm gonna go buy a pack of cigarettes and maybe say a prayer.