Info

his funeral oration for the emperor Theodosius.9 Unlike the other sources, Ambrose attributes the identification of the true cross to the titulus, which was placed there by providence for this purpose. Does he perhaps know of the fragment of the titulus brought back to Italy by Helena? A comment by John Chrysostom,10 again dating from the 390s, also appears to link the titulus with the identification of the true cross, though he does not attribute the discovery to Helena. So how far back can we trace Helena's connection with the discovery? It is now generally agreed that the lost history of Gelasius, bishop of Caesarea from 357 ce, was the source for all the other historians, and what Rufinus added to Eusebius was, at least in books 10 and 11, largely a translation of Gelasius.11 Prior to Gelasius, however, there is nothing to link the discovery of the true cross with Helena's well-attested pilgrimage in 326-7, a gap of some thirty years. Eusebius makes much of her involvement with the building of churches in Bethlehem and on the Mount of Olives, but does not in any way connect her with the discovery of the Holy Sepulchre or the building of the church in Jerusalem. Besides, his silence about the discovery of the true cross is absolute. It is time to consider his evidence.

The important workis his De vita Constantini ( 'Life of Constantine'). Written soon after the death of the Emperor, it celebrates Constantine's deeds and his character, and focuses among other things on his church building programme in the Holy Land. Eusebius12 confirms the discovery of the sepulchre under a pagan temple at the heart of the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina, and quotes the letter from Constantine to bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, instructing him to build a church there. It has been pointed out,13 however, that, while Eusebius emphasises the memorial of the Resurrection', Constantine wrote of a 'token of that holiest Passion', and that Constantine focuses on the basilica (or Martyrion) associated with Christ's death, while Eusebius is largely interested in the resplendent courtyard constructed around the tomb (the Anastasis). Eusebius, then, may appear to suppress the story of the finding of the cross, while betraying himself, both by recording this letter and also in hints elsewhere - speaking before the emperor14 he states that the basilica was constructed to honour the ' saving sign', which naturally means the cross.

11 For a discussion of the reconstruction of Gelasius' history, and Rufinus' debt to it, see Drijvers, Helena Augusta, 96-101.

13 Drake, Eusebius on the true cross'.

14 L.C. 9.16; this text is Eusebius' address on the thirtieth anniversary of Constantine's reign, appended to the V.C.

0 0

Post a comment