Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

St Helen

Today is the feast day of St Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine the Great, and the rediscoverer of the Holy Cross. There is an online biography of her here.

Coin of Flavia Iulia Helena, mother of Constantine I.
Æ Follis (19mm, 3.45 gm). Treveri (Trier) mint. Struck 325–326 AD

Image: Wikipedia

As a patron saint she has a number of churches in my home area in Yorkshire, and they appear to be associations of cosiderable antiquity. Given that Constantine assumed the Imperial purple in York that is perhaps not that surprising. Later legend made Helen British by birth and her cult was extensive in the middle ages.


The modern statue of the Emperor Constantine outside York Minster

Image: www.work-unitedkingdom.co.uk

In Orthodox iconography she is often depicted with Constantine, the Holy Cross between them, and this appears to have typology similar to images of Christ and the Virgin Mary, with, it might appear, the transfer of attributes and poses between both pairings. I am sure someone has written extensively on this subject, though I have not seen such work myself.

File:Brosen icon constantine helena.jpg

A Bulgarian icon of Constantine and St Helen with the Holy Cross



Constantine the Great

Image: olelarsonsfolks.net

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