Cynewulf: Elene

(1532 words)
  • Stacy Klein (Rutgers University )

Cynewulf's 1321-line poem Elene is the earliest and most elaborate English account of the finding or Inventio of the Holy Cross by Saint Helena. The poem is based very loosely on historical events. Shortly after becoming sole ruler of the Roman empire in 324AD, Constantine the Great sent his aged mother Helena on a mission to Palestine and his other newly claimed eastern provinces. Helena's stay in the Holy Lands and her efforts to propagate Christianity in the East became the foundation for the legend that she had recovered the True Cross. Cynewulf's Old English verse rendering of the legend depicts Elene as a heroic warrior-queen who embodies both the rightful authority of the Christian State and the triumph of the …

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Klein, Stacy. "Elene". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 05 May 2006; last revised 01 June 2006.
[, accessed 30 September 2016.]