Today and yesterday, Sept. 13-14, are special days for many Christians, marking the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Feast of the Exultation of the Lifegiving Cross.
Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, after his conversion to Christianity, sent his mother, Queen Helena, to the Holy Land to find and consecrate the birthplace of Jesus, the site of his preaching on the Mount of Olives, and the place of his crucifixion and of his tomb.
According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine.
The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross placed inside it.
One Christian legend says that Helena came and assembled the Jews of Jerusalem and learned that one of them, a man named Judah, knew where Jesus had been crucified.
He refused to reveal the site so Helena had him imprisoned and threatened to starve him to death.
After a week the frightened and exhausted Judah agreed to take her to the site.
When she excavated, she found the three crosses of Golgotha.
Today, if you enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and go down a big staircase, you come to the Chapel of St. Helena, owned by the Armenians.
Descend more steps and you will stand in the dark altar (seen in my photo above) features a life-sized bronze statue of St. Helena holding a cross.