In the deepest part of the Holy Sepulchre is a Franciscan chapel that marks the place where, tradition tells us, Empress Helena found the cross of Christ.
In the year 312 the emperor of Rome, Constantine the Great, converted to Christianity, signed the Edict of Milan legalizing the practice of his faith, and soon set off for the Holy Land in the company of his mother, the 80-year-old Empress Helena .
On a mission to find relics from Jesus’ tomb to bring back to Rome, the pair found a rock-cut tomb that had been paved over with a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter or Venus. After removing this temple, Helena found the most sought-after relic of all, the True Cross of Jesus.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built over this holy site. Visitors walk down 22 steep steps to the Franciscan Chapel of the Finding of the Cross, located within the deepest part of the Church, beneath the Armenian Chapel of St. Helena.
The chapel was built in the 12th century, and marks the place where, tradition tells us, St. Helena found the cross of Christ, together with the nails and the titulus, the title panel on the cross that bore the inscription, “Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews,” in three languages.
Visitors to the chapel can see the remains of 12th-century frescoes, made faint from centuries of candle smoke and water damage.