St Helen’s Day – stained glass and true cross relic from Church of St Gilles, Mallièvre

It is St Helen’s day, commemorating the mother of the Emperor Constantine whose mission to recover the cross on which Christ was killed inspired Evelyn Waugh’s Helena.

Recent I visited Mallièvre , “la plus petite citè deVendèe”. The Church of St Gilles there has a fine window of St Helena:

There is also a “treasury” cabinet which had varies reliquaries and objéts including a true cross relic. It was a little tricky to photograph (you may just make out the words “vera crux” on the first photo below) but in the end the reflection of the stained glass windows gave an interesting effect as in the second:

Finally I found this passage from the wikipedia page on the True Cross interesting:

Conflicting with this is the finding of Charles Rohault de Fleury, who, in his Mémoire sur les instruments de la Passion of 1870 made a study of the relics in reference to the criticisms of Calvin and Erasmus. He drew up a catalogue of all known relics of the True Cross showing that, in spite of what various authors have claimed, the fragments of the Cross brought together again would not reach one-third that of a cross which has been supposed to have been three or four metres (9.8 or 13.1 feet) in height, with transverse branch of two metres (6.6 feet) wide, proportions not at all abnormal. He calculated: supposing the Cross to have been of pine-wood (based on his microscopic analysis of the fragments) and giving it a weight of about seventy-five kilogrammes, we find the original volume of the cross to be 0.178 cubic metres (6.286 cubic feet). The total known volume of known relics of the True Cross, according to his catalogue, amounts to approximately 0.004 cubic metres (0.141 cubic feet) (more specifically 3,942,000 cubic millimetres), leaving a volume of 0.174 m3 (6.145 cu ft) lost, destroyed, or otherwise unaccounted for.[28]

Four cross particles – of ten particles with surviving documentary provenances by Byzantine emperors – from European churches, i.e. Santa Croce in Rome, Notre Dame, Paris, Pisa Cathedral and Florence Cathedral, were microscopically examined. “The pieces came all together from olive.”[29] It is possible that many alleged pieces of the True Cross are forgeries, created by travelling merchants in the Middle Ages, during which period a thriving trade in manufactured relics existed.[citation needed]

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