Helena of Britain in medieval legend

Antonina Harbus

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


"St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great and legendary finder of the True Cross, was appropriated in the middle ages as a British saint. The rise and persistence of this legend harnessed Helena's imperial and sacred status to portray her as a romance heroine, source of national pride, and a legitimising link to imperial Rome. This study is the first to examine the origins, development, political exploitation, and decline of this legend, whose momentum and adaptive power are traced from Anglo-Saxon England to the twentieth century. Using Latin, English and Welsh texts, as well as church dedications and visual arts, the author examines the positive effect of the British legend on the cult of St. Helena and the reasons for its wide appeal and durability in both secular and religious contexts. Two previously unpublished vitae of St. Helena are included in the volume: a Middle English verse vita from The South English Legendary, and the Latin prose vita by the early-thirteenth-century hagiographer Jocelin of Furness."
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSuffolk, UK
PublisherD. S. Brewer
Number of pages215
ISBN (Print)0859916251
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Helena, Saint, ca. 255-ca. 330
  • Holy Cross--Legends


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