The full story is told by four church historians who, in one way or another, produced continuations of the first ecclesiastical history to be compiled - the work of the same Eusebius of Caesarea, which covered the period from church origins to his own day.3 Rufinus translated Eusebius' work into Latin and continued the story through the fourth century, writing about 402 ce. Some thirty or forty years later, Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen and Theodoret continued Eusebius' work in Greek. According to Rufinus4 and Socrates,5 Helena went to Jerusalem in response to divinely directed dreams in order to find the sepulchre of Christ. She discovered that a mound had been piled up to cover it, and on the mound a temple to Venus had been erected, a fact attributed to hostility to Christians venerating the tomb. She had the statue thrown down, the earth removed, and the ground entirely cleared, and there she found three crosses in the sepulchre, together with the titulus. By a miracle of healing, it was determined which was the cross of Christ. A portion of the true cross was left in the church she built over the site; another part was sent to Constantine who enclosed it in a statue of himself that was erected in Constantinople. The nails she found were used to make a helmet and bridle bits for the emperor.
Sozomen,6 writingperhaps a little later than Socrates, provides a largely corroborative account, though differing in some details. He indicates that some attributed the discovery to information from a Hebrew who had inherited some relevant documents, though Sozomen himself preferred divine communication through signs and dreams to human information! He also distinguishes between the discovery of the cave where the body was buried and the place where the crosses were found,7 and notes that the titulus had been wrenched from the cross so that it provided no clue as to which was the cross of Christ - hence the need for a miracle. Theodoret8 attributes to Helena the making of a helmet and bridle bits from the nails to protect her son. In other words, although the story is essentially the same, there are variations and additions.
It was long supposed that the earliest witness to the story is Ambrose of Milan, who tells it as a generally known fact in 395 in De obitu Theodosii,
3 Thus Eusebius' history, still a vital resource, covered the same ground as this volume.
7 Sozomen's version corresponds better with what one is shown today on a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
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