According to legend, when Adam grew old, his son Seth went to the gates of Paradise and begged for some healing ointment. The Archangel Michael appeared and gave him a branch, supposedly from the Tree of Knowledge. Seth returned to find his father dead and planted the branche over his grave. It grew into a tree which was cut down to build a house for King Solomon, but the trunk could bot be accommodated, and so was laid across a stream to serve as a bridge. On her visit to Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, who had had a vision that the Saviour would one day hang upon his trunk, approached the 'bridge' and knelt to worship it. She told Solomon that a man would come to destroy the kingdom of the Jews, and Solomon ordered the wood to be buried deep in the earth. When the time of Christ's Passion drew near, the wood floated to the surface of a pool and was used to make his Cross.

The story leaps several hundred years to the 4th century, when the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity and baptized. His mother, Helena, went to Jerusalem to seek a relic of the True Cross, but Jewish scholars refused to tell her where to find it. One Jew was thrown down a dry well and, after six days without food, he capitulated and led Helena to the site of the Cross on Golgotha. Three crosses, however, were found, and since they could not distinguish Christ's from those of the two thieves, Helena and her companion placed them upright in the city and waited for the Lord to give a sign. A young was was restored to life when the True Cross was held over him, and Helena returned home with part of the supposed relic, now preserved in St Peter's, Rome.

Some two centuries later, Chrosroes, king of Persia, conquered Jerusalem. He sat on a throne as the Father, put the wood in place of the Son, a cock in place of the Holy Ghost, and decreed that all should call him God. In the name of the Cross the emperor Heraclius defeated him and ordered the Persians to embrace the Christian faith. On his victorious return to Jerusalem, Heraclius was told by an angel to humble himself. He entered the city barefoot, carrying the Cross.

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