“Meskel” in Ge’ez translated means “cross”, Meskel is an annual religious holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox churches, which commemorates the discovery of the True Cross by the Roman Empress Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. Meskel occurs on the 17 Meskerem in the Ethiopian calendars (September 27, Gregorian calendar, or on 28 September in leap years).
Empress Helena was the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, and was born at Drepanum (Heliopolis) to parents of humble means. She married Constantius Chlorus, and their son Constantine was born in 274. Constantius divorced her in 294 to further his political ambitions by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”
After Emperor Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. Empress Helena, who was a Christian, may have influenced him in this decision. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear.