La crypte reliquaire de Sainte-Hélène à l'Église Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles-RELICS

The reliquary crypt of Saint Helena at the Church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles

Empress St Helena was directly responsible for the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and was the first person to bring Christian relics back to Rome. How did a large part of her body end up in an often overlooked church in Paris?

Helena died in Rome in 330, and you can still see her tomb there as well as her sarcophagus in the Vatican Museum. While the majority of the Empress's remains are still in Rome, part of her body is in the Church of Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles.

The story goes that in 840, a monk from Hautvillers, France, returned from a trip to Rome with a surprising memory. He confessed to breaking into the tomb of Saint Helena and stealing part of her body during his stay. Instead of ordering its return, the pope allowed the relic to remain in France, as the object itself had not protested the theft by miraculously stopping it (as other relics would have done) .

The other relics of Saint Helena remained in the monastery until the French Revolution broke out. The monastery was destroyed, but the cellarer was able to hide the relics until they could be safely transported to Paris to be venerated by the public again. They were then entrusted to the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and installed in their church, Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles. Most Parisian Catholics have forgotten the relics these days, but they continue to be venerated by the Russian Orthodox community, hence the cross and the Orthodox icons that surround the reliquary.

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