Helena is the intelligent, horse-mad daughter of a British chieftain who is suddenly betrothed to the warrior who becomes the Roman emperor Constantius. She spends her life seeking truth in the religions, mythologies, and philosophies of the declining ancient world. This she eventually finds in Christianity - and literally in the Cross of Christ.
The Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, made the historic pilgrimage to Palestine, found pieces of wood from the true Cross, and built churches at Bethlehem and Olivet. Her life coincided with one of the great turning-points of history: the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. The enormous conflicting forces of the age, and the corruption, treachery, and madness of Imperial Rome, combine to give Evelyn Waugh the theme for one of his most arresting and memorable works.
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