The Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a great despotic feast of Christianity which is observed in September, and the double finding of the Cross upon which Jesus was crucified is commemorated on this day. In Greece, those who bear the name Stavros or Stavroula celebrate their name day.
According to tradition, the mother of Constantine the Great, Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, traveled to Jerusalem in 326 to explore the place where Jesus Christ lived and taught. Under her supervision, many excavation works were carried out to uncover the place where Jesus Chris was crucified and then resurrected at the hill of Golgotha. Helena Augusta, who would then be revered as Saint Helena, found the Precious Cross thanks to an aromatic plant known as “basil”. After many excavation works, three crosses were found, that of Jesus Christ and those of the two thieves.
Two Christian church historians, Philostorgios and Nikiforos, report that the Cross of the Lord was miraculously found when it was placed on a dead woman and she was resurrected. In this place, the temple of Venus was built by Emperor Hadrian in 135, after the second destruction of Jerusalem. After having ordered its demolition, Saint Helena built in its place the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is still one of the most important monuments of Christianity. The Cross of the Lord was handed over to Patriarch Makarios of Jerusalem, who placed it in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on September 14, 335.
The second Exaltation of the Holy Cross is related to the Byzantine-Persian Wars (602-628). In 614, the Persians conquered Palestine and, after looting and destroying the sacred shrines of Christianity, they took the Holy Cross with them as booty. The Persian fire-worshippers considered the Cross to be magical because of some miracles that took place, and they worshipped it. After his final victory against the Persians in 628, The Emperor Heraclius regained the sacred symbol of Christianity and transported it first to Constantinople (September 14, 629) and then to Jerusalem.
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross is solemnly celebrated every year on September 14. In the churches, among other things, the famous apolytikion “Save, O Lord, Thy People” is sung and the faithful are given branches of basil, a church custom that stems from the tradition that this aromatic plant had sprouted in the place where the Precious Cross was found. The Church requires strict fasting on this day.