CORNHILL SOCIAL HISTORY PROJECT
Church and community

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St. Helen
History of St. Helen’s Church

St. Helen
St Helen (Helena) lived from about 249-329 A.D. It is believed that she came from Drepanum, in the Roman province of Bithynia, because her son, the Emperor Constantine, renamed Drepanum, Helenopolis after her. She is thought to have brought numerous Christian relics from Jerusalem, by far the most important of which was the reputed Titulus Crucis or name-board of Jesus, By Roman custom such a board was attached to the cross of a prisoner condemned to crucifixion, giving the name and crime.

According to John 19:20 the inscription above Jesus was written to Pilate’s instruction in Hebrew (Aramaic) Latin and Greek (Koine) in that order. However, for political reasons, the actual order would almost certainly be Latin, the official language of the Empire, at the top, followed by Koine Greek, the language generally understood between the Roman and local administrations, and lowest, the Aramaic of the common people.

The wording as quoted in John 19:19 in the Greek New Testament was Iesous ho Nazarenos ho Basilos tōn Ioudaiōn or Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews (note Nazarenos = of the Nazarene sect of the Jews, not Nazaraios = man of Nazareth). This translates in the Latin Vulgate bible as Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, giving the common acronym INRI.

After the Jewish heirarchy objected to the wording, Pilate replied, ‘Ho gegrapha gegrapha’, ‘what I have written I have written’ (John 19:22). It is worth noting that Jesus had conducted his own defence before Pilate and it is highly likely that he did so in Koine Greek.

There are two claimants to be the titulus found by Helen, both held in Rome. One has the languages in the order copied from John and there is a difference in the Latin wording. This item is likely to be a medieval creation, perhaps made for the Crusader souvenir market. The other, kept at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, has been examined by experts in first-century inscriptions and found authentic and the lines are in the correct political order. However, radio-carbon dating places it at about 975 AD but it is thought to be an exact replica of the lost original.

History of St. Helen’s Church to be completed
1082 - it is believed that the first stone church was built (maybe on the site of a Saxon wooden building).

1840 - church was enlarged, re-pewed and repaired. The bell tower was added.
Local legend says that at this time the body of an 8ft man was found buried under the nave.

1856 - the church had an harmonium and the choir was created. The Rectory held a lending library of 300 volumes

1866 - on 20 June 1866 the Foundation Stone of a Chancel for the church was laid. The chancel was first used on 23 December of the same year. Also, in this year, the Countess of Home presented a new font

1868 - A memorial window to the late Mrs Dickins (nee Collingwood) was installed on 5 February

1869 - The church was re-pewed with open seats as well as re-floored, dry rot having seriously affected the joists underneath as well as the flooring. At the same time, the harmonium was repaired and tuned.

1870 - a lectern was added

1900s - to add

2018 - churchyard project was started to try to make the church and its surroundings more of a community space, attractive to both residents and visitors.