The Saturday preceding the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy cross is called The Eve of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. This day, and the following Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are also known as the Feast of the Holy Churches. Each of these days celebrate four different churches.
The commemoration on the Eve of the Feast of Exaltation, is of the Navagadik (Dedication) of the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) in Jerusalem.
The site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is identified as the place both of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. The church has long been a major pilgrimage center for Christians all around the world.
According to the New Testament, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, “the place of the skull” (Matt. 27:33–35; Mark 15:22–25; John 19:17–24). This has been identified as an area of abandoned stone quarries just outside the city wall of the time.
About 10 years after the crucifixion, a third wall was built that enclosed the area of the execution and burial within the city, and this accounts for the Holy Sepulchre’s location inside the Old City of Jerusalem today.
The Roman emperor Constantine I, a convert to Christianity, had the temple of Venus in Jerusalem demolished to make way for a church. In the course of the demolition a tomb was discovered that was thought to be the tomb of Jesus.
The rock cut tomb was initially open to the elements, but later it was protected by a small building.
In 326 AD, Constantine’s mother, Saint Helena, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where, according to legend, she discovered the relic of the cross of Jesus (the “True Cross”). The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross placed inside it.
In 614 AD, a Persian army destroyed the church and the True Cross was taken away, but in 631 AD, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius negotiated its return. The Sacred Cross was restored to its place in the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
To commemorate this victory, in the seventh century A.D, the Church of Rome adopted the “Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross”.
In the 11th century a cave deep below the ruins of the basilica came to be known as the Chapel of the Invention (Finding) of the Cross.
Today, if you enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and go down a big staircase, you come to the Chapel of St Helena, owned by the Armenians.
Descend more steps and you will stand in the darkaltar features a life sized bronze statue of St Helena holding a cross.