Helena was born in 255 A.D. It is believed that Helena was the daughter of a British king Chlorus. She may have been born in the town of Colchester. If that is true, she may have been a Christian from birth, as there was a church there. A number of churches in Britain are dedicated to her.
Mother of the first Christian emperor
Some historians claim that she was a Christian during Constantine's youth and influenced him to revolt against paganism. Some say that Constantine had no relation to Christianity until he saw a vision of the first two letters of Christ's name followed with "In this sign thou shalt conquer", as he was preparing for battle with his opponent Maxentius. But it is no doubt that Helena was heavily involved with the christianization of the Roman empire. After Helena was married to Chlorus for at least 19 years, he divorced her for political reasons. He was given the title of Caesar over Gaul, Spain, and Britain, and in return was required to marry Theodora, daughter of his patron Maximian. Helena was left in obscurity until her son Constantine restored her to the imperial court. He ordered that all honor should be paid to her as the mother of the sovereign.
In her honor, Constantine renamed the town of Drepanum to Helenopolis. After her death, the emperor ordered coins to be struck in her honor.
Pilgrimages to the Holy LandHelena was among the first pilgrims to the Holy Land, in the times when it was a dangerous endeavor. She went there in hopes of finding the secret to eternal life.
According to some chroniclers, Helena was directed to Jerusalem in a dream, to search for the Holy Sepulchre.
When she found the place where she believed to tomb of Jesus was supposed to be, she discovered that a temple to Venus was erected on top of it. She ordered the temple to be destroyed, and ordered her workers to excavate the cave.
Adjacent to this tomb, Helena found a cross she believed was the cross where Christ was crucified.
In the area where the cross and the tomb where found, Helena ordered a Church of the Holy Sepulchre to be built.
She also built the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Both of these churches still stand, with modifications. The church in Bethlehem is the longest standing place of Christian worship.
She was probably in her 70s when emperor Constantine ordered a church to be built upon Mount Calvary, but she took to overseeing the construction of that church.
Besides building churches, Helena also helped many individuals and entire communities in Jerusalem. She would gather the poor, feed them, provide water to wash their hands, and do other things house owners did for their guests.