Helmet of Constantine
The Helmet of Constantine was a helmet or form of helmet worn by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, now lost, which featured in his imperial iconography. According to a story recorded by Saint Ambrose and others, it included relics gathered in the Holy Land by his mother St. Helena. Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, which happened around AD 300, was of great importance. In this period it was believed that touching the body of the deceased or even something that came in contact with the person who had died, was said to have special powers. This belief started a huge obsession with finding these relics to protect churches, cities, and even people.
Constantine I was one of these people who was, as they thought, protected because he had a relic in his possession. The helmet that he wore had a piece of the True Cross that Jesus was crucified on. After Constantine was made Caesar, he issued the Edict of Milan, sending his mother Helena to find the True Cross and to send back what she found. Helena found the cross and sent three nails that were used in the crucifixion of Jesus back to Rome and her son Constantine.
The helmet that Constantine wore included one of the Holy Nails that Saint Helena found at the crucifixion site. By making the helmet with one of the nails, it was supposed to protect him from any harm. Not only was it a sign of protection, but it was also said to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah. The prophecy located in the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah said that one would come who engraved “Holiness to the Lord” on both the bells of the horses and head piece of the man. At this time, the Roman emperor had the holiest relics known to man.
A rare silver medallion of 315 shows Constantine with a chi-rho symbol as the crest of his helmet, and Eusbius's Life records that he often wore such a helmet in later life, although it is not visible in other bronze coins.
- Andreas Alföldi, "The Helmet of Constantine with the Christian Monogram", The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 22, Part 1: Papers Dedicated to Sir George Macdonald K.C.B. (1932), pp. 9-23, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, JSTOR
- Ambrose Of Milan: Political Letters And Speeches, pp. 199-200
- Joe Nickell, Relics of Christ
- A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.
- Constantine the Great coins, thesis, pp. 11-12