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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Statue of Saint Helena by Andrea Bolgi

0 Statue de Sainte Hélène par Andrea Bolgi - Basilique St-Pierre - Vatican

Statue of Saint Helena by Andrea Bolgi

The Statue of Saint Helena by Andrea Bolgi depicts Saint Helena holding the True Cross and the Holy Nails. The sculptor Bolgi laboured for a decade on this statue that epitomised his career. Saint Helena (250 AD – 330 AD) was an Empress of the Roman Empire, and mother of Emperor Constantine the Great (272 –337), the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.

The Statue of Saint Helena was created for one of the four niches at the crossing of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. In St. Peter’s Basilica four piers are supporting the dome of the Basilica, and each of the piers has a niche in which is set one of the four statues associated with the basilica’s most important holy relics. A piece of the True Cross Relic is kept near the colossal statue of St. Empress Helena.

The Statue of Saint Helena is one of these four statues. The four sculptures set in the niches of the four piers supporting the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are:

Saint Helena

Helena (250 AD – 330 AD) was born as a commoner; she became the consort of the future Roman Emperor and the mother of the future Emperor Constantine the Great. She ranks as an essential figure in the history of Christianity, due to her influence on her son. In her final years, she made a religious tour of Syria, Palaestina and Jerusalem, during which she allegedly discovered the True Cross.  The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a Christian Church tradition, are said to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. On the site of the discovery, Constantine ordered the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

When Helena left Jerusalem and the eastern provinces to return to Rome, she brought with her large parts of the True Cross and other relics, which were then stored in her palace’s private chapel, where they can be still seen today. Her palace was later converted into what today is called the “Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem”, which is in Rome.

St. Helena is the patron saint of difficult marriages, divorced people, converts, and archaeologists.

Andrea Bolgi

The sculptor, Andrea Bolgi (1605 – 1656) was an Italian sculptor responsible for several statues in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Later, he moved to Naples, where he sculpted portrait busts, where he died in Naples during a plague epidemic.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, which is the papal enclave within the city of Rome. St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Saint Peter, a leading Apostle of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter’s tomb is supposedly directly below the high altar of the Basilica.

Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem

The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Rome, Italy. It is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. According to tradition, the basilica was consecrated in 325 to house the relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ brought to Rome from the Holy Land by Empress St. Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I. Several famous relics of disputed authenticity, are housed there in the Cappella delle Reliquie.

  • The panel which hung on Christ’s Cross (considered to be a mediaeval forgery);
  • two thorns of the Crown of Thorns;
  • part of a nail;
  • three small wooden pieces of the True Cross;
  • and a larger portion of the True Cross is kept near the colossal statue of St. Empress Helena sculpted by Andrea Bolgi in the early 1640s.

Reflections

  • Why is St. Helena is the patron saint of difficult marriages and divorced people?
  • St. Helena is the patron saint of archaeologists. How many archaeologists know that?

Explore Masterpieces of St. Peter’s Basilica

Statue of Saint Helena

  • Title:                Statue of Saint Helena
  • Italiano:           Statua di Sant’Elena Imperatrice
  • Français:          Statue de Saint Hélène de Constantinople
  • Artist:              Andrea Bolgi
  • Year:                1647
  • Materials:        Marble
  • Museum:         St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Andrea Bolgi

  • Name:               Andrea Bolgi
  • Born:                 1605 – Carrara, Italy
  • Died:                 1656 – (aged 51) – Naples
  • Movement:       Baroque
  • Notable works:

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“There are three classes of people:
Those who see.
Those who see when they are shown.
Those who do not see.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit: By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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