100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Saint Helena of Constantinople

We have come across many different figures in Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest Women On Coins publication. Some real, some allegorical, but all important in the woven tapestry of the history of women. This next entry is perhaps one of the more interesting ones as although not born of notoriety, she sure did make her mark on history within the religious realm. Author Ron Guth will help us explore this top 50 pick and help us get to know the woman who allegedly discovered the wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified.

#44 - Saint Helena of Constantinople

While it is unknown when her exact date of birth was, many believe that it was around 250 AD in Helenopolis, or formerly known as Drepanum before her son renamed it after her. Her upbringing is also unknown but she ended up marrying Contantius and having their son Constantine around 272 AD. However, Constantius divorced Helena after rising to power sometime before 289 AD. Helena would be reestablished after her son Constantine grew to power as he gave her the title “Augusta,” or Empress. The majority of her life afterward would be spent travelling throughout the Middle East as she made it a priority to establish and improve churches while searching for Christian artifacts.

Appearing on a number of ancient coins including bronze follisses and god solidi, Helena is most likely seen on the obverse of those coins in profile facing right. Those same coins bear reverses that pay homage to allegorical figures representing Securitas (Security) and Pax Publica (Public Peace). Her coins were issued mainly between the years 324 and 330 AD. The country of Romania produced a 500-lei gold coin featuring Saint Helena and Constantine in 2006 as the Cook Islands produced a colorized, rectangle-shaped silver coin with the depiction of the famous image of Saint Helena with a cross in 2010.

Collecting difficulty, according to Guth, is easy as ancient coins depicting Helena are common. Modern versions of her depictions are more difficult.