Meskel (Finding of the True Cross), one of the major Ethiopian Orthodox festivals is celebrated for two days beginning September 26th. Legend has it that in the year 326, Queen Helena (Empress Helen) the Mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the cross upon which Christ was crucified. Unable to find the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for help and was directed by the smoke from a burning fire as to where the cross was buried. After unearthing the Holy Cross, Queen Helena lit torches heralding her success. In the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the Meskel (Finding of the True Cross) in return for protection afforded to the Coptic Christians. A fragment of the True Cross is reputedly held at the Gishen Mariam, about 70 kilometers northwest of Dessie.