May 21, 2015

The Helmet of Emperor Constantine the Great

Constantine: Silver Medallion 315 A.D.

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 Saint Ambrose and other early Christian historians, it included relics gathered in the Holy Land by his mother St. Helen. The helmet that Constantine wore had a nail from the True Cross that Jesus was crucified on, and Helen discovered on Golgotha. By making the helmet with one of the nails, it was supposed to protect him from any harm.

Theodoret says in his Ecclesiastical History, chapter 17:

The mother of the emperor, on learning the accomplishment of her desire, gave orders that a portion of the nails should be inserted in the royal helmet, in order that the head of her son might be preserved from the darts of his enemies. The other portion of the nails she ordered to be formed into the bridle of his horse, not only to ensure the safety of the emperor, but also to fulfill an ancient prophecy; for long before Zechariah, the prophet, had predicted that "There shall be upon the bridles of the horses HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD ALMIGHTY."

A rare silver medallion of 315 shows Constantine with a chi-rho symbol as the crest of his helmet, and Eusebius's Life of Constantine records that he often wore such a helmet in later life.

Constantine: Rare Siscia Coin 317 A.D. (?)

Constantine: Bronze Coin 336 A.D.