St. Helen's Pilgrimage


The St. Helen’s Pilgrimage is a mandatory study-abroad program for all Holy Cross Master of Divinity students. Part A includes three weeks of Modern Greek language study in Thessaloniki, a week at the Phanar, and a week of further pilgrimage travel. Part B (optional) includes an additional four weeks of intensive Modern Greek language instruction in Athens and on the island of Paros.

Prior to embarking on the pilgrimage, students must complete a three-credit preparatory course focusing on the history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This course is offered during the spring semester of their junior year.


The St. Helen’s Pilgrimage experience:

  • Brings alive instruction in the New Testament, Church History, Byzantine History, and Orthodox Spirituality received at Holy Cross through visits to places like Hagia Sophia, Mount Athos, the site of St. Demetrios’ martyrdom, the cathedral where St. Gregory Palamas gave his sermons as Archbishop, and the path journeyed by St. Paul across Northern Greece
  • Gives students much appreciation for the depth, vastness, and permanency of the Orthodox Church and Orthodox spirituality
  • Strengthens students’ understanding, appreciation, and connection with the Ecumenical Patriarchate–our Mother Church
  • Improves conversational Greek skills
  • Deepens students’ love and appreciation of Greek culture
  • Broadens students’ understanding of the world (for some, it is their first time traveling outside of the US)
  • Makes clear the centrality of Greece, Byzantium, and Orthodoxy in the history of Western Europe


As the person who found the Cross of Christ, the mother of Emperor Constantine, and a true Christian pilgrim who walked in the footsteps of our Lord and the saints in the Holy Lands and throughout the Byzantine Empire, Saint Helen served and advanced the Church significantly in her day, and in a way stands at the intersection of Orthodoxy, Greece, Byzantium, and the history of Western Europe.