Re: Helen and the True Cross
[This email came to my email address alone (30 June 2006, 03:38 am EST.), yet I'm sure it was meant for the whole list.]
Yes, I think that the cross was found (or a piece of wood considered to be the cross) possibly when the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built but that its inventio was only attributed to Helena later for specific motives. One of the motives was political and had to do with the conflict between Caesarea and Jerusalem about primacy in the church province of Palestine.
There are no historically reliable sources before the last decades of the 4th century that connect Helena with the inventio crucis. There are plenty of references to the Cross, to its finding (see Cyril's letter to Constantius II of 351) and its veneration in Jerusalem before that, but no mention of Helena. The one who probably first mentioned Helena's discovery of the Cross was Gelasius of Caesarea in his (now lost) Ecclesiastical History (c. 390); the core of his story of Helena's inventio crucis can be found in Rufinus' Ecclesiastical History.
As to S Croce in Gerusalemme, even if we assume that the information in the Liber Pontificalis is reliable, Helena and the inventio crucis are not mentioned. I believe therefore that the relevant passage in the LP (I.179) cannot serve as evidence for the finding of the Cross by Helena.
Dr. Jan Willem Drijvers
Re: Helen and the True Cross
Thank you, Jan Willem.
I will continue, however, to hold up the extreme case, i.e., that the legend of Helena and the True Cross did happen, and at its earliest possible date, 14 September 325. Additionally, a law of silence specifically regarding Helena-and-the-True-Cross was put into place soon after 25 July 326.
[It just occurred to me now that, besides keeping imperial control of the situation, there is another reason the law of silence may have come into place. If the event was a fabrication of Helena, Eutropia and/or Constantine, then the deaths of Crispus, Helena and Fausta may have been seen by Constantine and Eutropia (and perhaps even by Helena on her death bed) as signs that they did something very wrong, and thus a law of silence was the best way to 'enforce' that the event never really happened. Nonetheless, news of the (possibly fabricated) event was already in circulation for 10 months.]
Laws of silence are strangely powerful because the better they work, the less history gets to know what the silence was about. It appears, however, that breaking an imperial law of silence is not punishable by death, rather by exile--see St. Martin I, pope and martyr, died c. 656.
Between 25 July 326 and 25 February 395 (during which time the law of silence regarding Helena and the Cross was enforced) Bishop Athanasius and Bishop Cyril were committed to exile several times, and, before Athanasius and Cyril, Bishop Eustathius lost his see.
"Last night, in reviewing the case of the 'downfall' of Eustathius, bishop of Antioch, and its seeming connection to his having said something about Helena, it is mentioned that Eustathius was anti-Arian while Helena seems to have been pro-Arian, and thus maybe Eustathius said something along these lines. [The fall of Eustathius occurred sometime 326-328, and is one of the factors that leads modern scholars to believe that Helena was in the Holy Land/East during that period. I think that Eustathius did fall because he said something about Helena, but that his real crime was that he said something about Helena after her death in Rome July 326. In other words, Eustathius broke the 'silence' regarding Helena and the Cross that was somehow enforced by Constantine, and Eustathius' losing his see is a clear example to those living then under Constantine of what will happen if you too break the 'silence'. Interestingly, it is Athanasius of Alexandria that first tells us of the Eustathius/Helena connection, and he was also a supported of Eustathius. Athanasius was exiled to Trier (where he might not be heard so well?) during the latter years of Constantine's life.]"
--Stephen Lauf, "re-reading VITA CONSTANTINI Book III" at lt-antiq listserv, 2001.08.18 [the feast of St. Helena]
Laws of silence are not only effectually beneficial for imperials, however. If you knew that one of your adversaries had broken a law of silence, a charge against your adversary could then be quickly brought to court. I now seriously wonder/speculate that the law of silence regarding Helena and the True Cross was also occasionally utilized as a powerful tool within the ongoing Arian controversy.
Last night, while reading of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in Butler's Lives of the Saints, the following passage struck me:
"Acacius thereupon, making his way to Constantinople, persuaded the Emperor Constantius to summon another council. Fresh accusations were made in addition to the old ones, and what particularly incensed the emperor was the information that a gold-brocaded vestment presented by his father Constantine to Marcarius for administering baptism had been sold, and had been seen and recognized on a comedian performing on the boards of a theatre. Acacius triumphed and obtained a second decree of exile against Cyril within a year of his vindication."
If such a charge against Cyril was really brought before Constantius, did Cyril really sell such an important vestment, especially since he himself was so closely involved with the baptisms that occurred at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre? It didn't take me long to think that the charge as recorded might be code for Cyril having done the worst, the unspeakable, i.e., that he spoke of that which by law he should be silent.
If Cyril did indeed speak of Helena and the True Cross, it may well have already happened before he was bishop of Jerusalem.
"He seems to have been ordained priest by the bishop of Jerusalem, St. Maximus, who thought so highly of his abilities that he charged him with the important duty of instructing the catechumens. His catechetical lectures were delivered for several years--those to the illuminandi, or candidates for baptism, taking place in Constantine's basilica of the Holy Cross, usually called the Martyrion, and those to the newly-baptized being given during Easter week in the circular Anastasis or church of the Resurrection. They were delivered without book... We find in them also interesting allusions to the discovery of the cross..."
--Butler's Lives of the Saints
Cyril's lectures occurred within the first decade of the publication of Eusebius's Vita Constantini. As a (probable) native of Jerusalem who was about 10 years old 14 September 325, did it bother Cyril that Eusebius omitted all mention of Helena with regard to the building of the Holy Sepulchre? Was Cyril, in his catechetical lectures, making sure that the newly-baptized Christians were aware of the full "real" story?
Is Gelasius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History (c. 390) "now lost" because it contained information that was illegal to publish at the time?
As to Santa Croce in Jerusalemme, the basilica and its Constantinian date are still important to the discussion of relics (and pilgrimage).
I'm curious as to why Steve Mulburger excluded a passage from me when he demonstrated the 4th century "as even more eccentric" than he thought. Don't tell me there is a law of silence forbidding discussion of a law of silence.
Re: Helen and the True Cross
I am offering good evidence that very well points to a law of silence having been issued regarding Helena and the True Cross soon after 25 July 326. Perhaps argumentum ex ignorantia becomes quite strong when taken to an extreme.
Of course, it is easier to try and swiftly push the whole argument aside, but perhaps, too, a sign of weakness.
3 August 326, etc.
Constantine the Great left Rome 3 August 326 and never returned to Rome.
Within the week prior, Constantine had buried both his mother Helena and his wife Fausta.
There is one extant example of the damnatio memoriae of Fausta, CIL X 678, where the words FAUSTA and UXORI (wife) are replaced by HELENA and MATRI (mother). One of the several extant examples of the damnatio memoriae of Crispus also appears on this fragment of inscription.
The first person to break the law of silence regarding Helena and the True Cross was Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch. I found out yesterday that Eustathius is also a saint, and his feast day is 16 July.
St. Eustathius was a native of Side in Pamphylia, and confessed the faith of Christ before the persecutors, as St. Athanasius assures us. He was learned, eloquent and virtuous. Being made bishop of Beroea in Syria, he began to be highly considered in the Church; and in due course he was translated to the see of Antioch, in dignity the next to Alexandria, and then the third in the world. He at the same time was called on to assist at the general Council of Nicaea, where he was received with much honour and distinguished himself by his opposition to Arianism. Amidst his external work for the service of others he did not forget that charity must begin at home, and he labored in the first place to sanctify his own soul; but after watering his own garden he did not confine the stream there, but let it flow abroad to enrich the neighboring soil, and to dispense plenty and fruitfulness all around. He sent into other dioceses that were subject to his oversight men capable of instructing and encouraging the faithful, and was greatly alarmed to find that Eusebius, Bishop of Caesaria in Palestine, favored the new heresy (this same Eusebius is known and honoured as "the father of church history"). The distrust of Eusebius for the doctrine of this and other bishops, and his accusation that they altered the Nicene creed, provoked a storm against him among the Arians, who about the year 330 [sic] obtained his disposition.
The holy pastor assemblemed the people before his departure from Antioch, and exhorted them to remain steadfast in the true doctrine: which exhortations were of so great weight in preserving many in the orthodox faith that a body of "Eustathians" were formed, who refused to recognize bishops appointed over them by the Arians. But this loyal behaviour afterwards developed into a factious and troublesome sectarianism in the face of orthodox preletes. St. Eustathius was exiled with several priests and deacons to Trajanopolis in Thrace, but the place and date of his death are alike somewhat uncertain. Most of his copious writings have perished; his principal extant work is a disquisition against Origen, in which the powers of the pythoness of Endor (I Kings xxviii 7-23) are criticized. Sozomen commends these works both for their style and their matter--but nothing shows his virtue so well as the patience with which he sufferd first lying accusations in matters of weight, and then unjust disposition and banishment. St. Eustathius bore his exile with resignation and submission, greater under its disgrace and hardships than while his virtues shone with lustre on the episcopal chair. He is named in the canon of the Syrian and Maronite Mass.
--Butler's Lives of the Saints
Been reading Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesarea in Palistine and first Christian Historian: A Study of the Man and His Writings by F. J. Foakes-Jackson (1933).
Eutropia, Helena, and Constantine
They did a lot more than dabble; their architecture and urbanism shifted the whole paradigm of the Roman Empire.
In 315 AD the Arch of Trajan was dismantles, moved, redesigned, and rebuilt as the Arch of Constantine.
link - wqc/77/7658
Eutropia: "Just take down the Arch of Trajan, and place it within the new arch."
Helena: "That's perfect, but where do we put the new arch?"
Eutropia: "I say over by the basilica begun by my son."
Helena: "Yes, over by the basilica completed by my son."
Eutropia: "Yes, over by the basilica begun by my son and completed by my son-in-law."
Helena: "Ha! Must you always have the last word?"
Eutropia: "Yes, I confess."
et clement Trajano in Paradiso via Dante
Afterlife Address of Choice
Re: Relics of the "true" cross?
Vance, have you read:
S. Borgehammer: How the Holy Cross was Found: From Event to Medieval Legend. Stockholm 1991.
Hans A. Pohlsander: Helena – Empress and Saint. Ares, Chicago 1995,
Jan Willem Drijvers: Helena Augusta – The Mother of Constantine the Great and her Finding of the True Cross. Leiden 1992.
Re: Relics of the "true" cross?
A limited preview of Drijvers: Helena Augusta – The Mother of Constantine the Great and her Finding of the True Cross is available at google books. Page 82 regards Cyril's letter to Constantius.
Re: Relics of the "true" cross?
I wasn't sure how much you were already into the subject, but your questions do aim at the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, there are no precise historical answers to most of your questions. Jacobs' reply provides a clear synopsis of what is known for sure. Cyril's letter to Constantius is the earliest reference to the discovery of the Cross.
I have my own theories as to "what happened" back then, and it involves Ambrose breaking a law of silence, instituted by Constantine, regarding Helena and the Cross. The main reason for the law of silence was to deprive the Church hierarchy of the "power" of the True Cross, a power that would be greater than the Emperor himself. Basically, all the Church Fathers (from c.326 to 386) knew of Helena and the Cross, but they weren't allowed to say anything about it (at least not without then being exiled).
I see Santa Croce at Ravenna as a reenactment of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme--essentially Galla Placidia reenacting Helena Augusta, a later Christian Empress reenacting the 'original' Christian Empress. Helena was a "church builder" and Galla Placidia continued the tradition. In a sense, Santa Croce at Ravenna provides evidence for the prior existence of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and its own 'legend'.
Anyway, I haven't focused on any of this stuff in a number of years, and my recollection of it all is starting to get sketchy. I am planning to work on it all again soon, so if you have any other questions I'd be happy to entertain them.
Re: Streets of Aelia Capitolina/Jerusalem
Within Eusebius's LIFE OF CONSTANTINE, the Church of the Nativity and the Church at the site of the Ascension are attributed to Helena's direct involvement. Within the same text, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is not attributed to Helena, however Eusebius does name the architect. There is no mention of the Holy Cross or of a discovery of the Holy Cross within the LIFE OF CONSTANTINE.
The LIFE OF CONSTANTINE was published a year after Constantine's death. Eusebius had met Constantine at least twice, and perhaps even met Helena if she was at the Nicene Council (if not also when/if she was in Palestine). Beside being a historian, Eusebius was metropolitan bishop of Palestine. It does not seem likely that Eusebius could have gotten away with making up a story about Helena's involvement in the building of certain 'holy land' churches.
I'm not certain, but I believe there is no hard evidence that Constantine was ever at Jerusalem while he was emperor.
Re: “New” Helens
With Christianity then the newly official and only state religion of the Roman Empire, no doubt it eventually crossed Galla Placidia's mind as to what the role of a newly, officially Christian Empress of the Roman Empire might be. Helena, if not also Eutropia, where then the obvious Imperial role models.
There are early 19th century architectural drawings of the (so-called) Tomb of Galla Placidia, then known as the Church of St. Nazarus and St. Celsus, within Seroux d'Agincourt's History of Art... You can see reduced versions of the drawings at wqc/04/0430. I can send you better scans of the drawings if you'd like.
Ury, now quondam, exactly 200 years ago
Finsihed chapter 3 of Whispering City: Rome and its Histories.
At night I (re)read “The Iconography of the Emperor Maxentius’ Buildings in Via Appia.” Again, there seems to be no knowledge of the Circus of Hadrian (at Rome). It’s now clear that “De Spectaculis II” (c0707) begins with collecting all I can on the Circus of Hadrian.
"rewriting" other texts
This refers to the notion of "rewriting" Jan's text on Helena/Waugh with my theory as to what happened--the law of silence, etc.