The Dream of Constantine, a fifteen-minute oratorio for unaccompanied SATB choir, was commissioned for a series of concerts in Serbia, France, England and Germany, organised by the Serbian Council of Great Britain to commemorate the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan (313). The piece was first performed at the Philharmonic Orchestra Concert Hall, Niš, Serbia (formerly Naissus, the birthplace of Constantine the Great) on 28 October 2011. Subsequent performances took place at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London (18 February 2012) and St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York (19 February 2012).
With an infusion of poetic licence, the story told in The Dream of Constantine is based on the Old English poem Elena by the poet Cynewulf (fl. 9th century). Cynewulf’s account of Constantine's vision is derived from the legend of Judas Cyriacus, who was tortured by Constantine's mother, St Helena, when she travelled to Jerusalem in search of the true cross. It was Judas Cyriacus who revealed the location of the cross. Another version of the legend, in which Constantine's vision takes place on the eve of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (in the year 312) is related by Eusebius of Caesaria in his Life of Constantine, left uncompleted before 339, the year of Eusebius’s death.
Music by Malcolm Bothwell
Words by Paul Williamson
2. The appearance of the angelic herald
4. The vision of the holy tree
5. The battle
6. The glorification of the cross
The 24, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York, 19 February 2012.
Head of the Colossus of Constantine, 312–15. Musei Capitolini, Rome.
Giotto di Bondone (1266–1337), Angel (detail).
Piero della Francesca, Madonna del Parto, completed c.1460 (detail).
Debbie Loftus, Jewelled Trees (detail), © 2017.
Peter Paul Rubens, Triumph of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, 1623–5. Detail from the tapestry now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1959.
Martina Kolarien (aged 6), Constantine the Great and St Helena, © 2011.