Latin Monogramma Christi) is a monogram or
combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of
Jesus Christ, traditionally used as a religious symbol within the
One of the oldest Christograms is the Chi-Rho. It consists of the
superimposed Greek letters chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ), which are the first
two letters of Greek χριστός "Christ". It was displayed on the
labarum military standard used by
Constantine I in AD 312. The IX
monogram () is a similar form, using the initials of the name
Ἰησοῦς (ὁ) Χριστός "Jesus (the) Christ", as is the
ΙΗ monogram (), using the first two letters of the name
There were a very considerable number of variants of "Christograms" or
Christ in use during the medieval period, with the
boundary between specific monograms and mere scribal abbreviations
The name Jesus, spelt "ΙΗΣΟΥΣ" in Greek capitals, has the
abbreviations IHS (also written JHS, IHC, or ΙΗΣ), the name
Christus , spelt "ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ", has XP (and inflectional variants
such as IX, XPO, XPS, XPI, XPO, XPM). In Eastern Christian tradition,
the monogram ΙϹΧϹ (with
Overline indicating scribal abbreviation)
is used for Ἰησοῦς Χριστός in both Greek and Cyrillic
Latin term for abbreviations of the name of
chrisimus. Similarly, Middle
Latin crismon, chrismon refers to the
Chi Rho monogram specifically.
1 Chi (Χ)
Chi Rho (ΧΡ)
5 See also
7 External links
Further information: Chi (letter)
In antiquity, the cross, i.e. the instrument of Christ's crucifixion
(crux, stauros) was taken to be T-shaped, while the X-shape
("chiasmus") had different connotations. There has been a lot of
scholarly speculation on the development of the Christian cross, the
letter Chi used to abbreviate the name of Christ, and the various
Christian symbolism associated with the chiasmus interpreted in
terms of "the mystery of the pre-existent Christ".
In Plato's Timaeus, it is explained that the two bands which form the
"world soul" (anima mundi) cross each other like the letter chi,
possibly referring to the ecliptic crossing the celestial equator.
Justin Martyr in the 2nd century makes explicit reference to Plato's
image in Timaeus in terms of a prefiguration of the Holy Cross. and
an early testimony may be the phrase in Didache, "sign of extension in
heaven" (sēmeion epektaseōs en ouranōi).
An alternate explanation of the intersecting celestial symbol has been
advanced by George Latura, claiming that Plato's visible god in
Timaeus is in fact the intersection of the Milky Way and the Zodiacal
Light, a rare apparition important to pagan beliefs that Christian
bishops reinvented as a Christian symbol.
The most commonly encountered
Christogram in English-speaking
countries in modern times is the Χ (or more accurately, the Greek
letter chi), representing the first letter of the word Christ, in such
Xmas (for "Christmas") and Xian or Xtian (for
Chi Rho (ΧΡ)
Main article: Chi Rho
Chi Rho combined with Alpha and Omega, in 1669 labelled Chrismon
Sancti Ambrosii, Milan Cathedral.
Alpha and Omega
Alpha and Omega symbols may at times accompany the Chi-Rho
monogram. Chrismon (chrismum; also chrismos, chrismus) since the
17th century has been used as a New
Latin term for the Chi Rho
Because the chrismon was used as a kind of "invocation" at the
beginning of documents of the Merovingian period, the term also came
to be used of the "cross-signatures" in early medieval charters.
Chrismon in this context may refer to the Merovingian period
abbreviation I. C. N. for in Christi nomine, later (in the Carolingian
period) also I. C. for in Christo, and still later (in the high
medieval period) just C. for Christus.
St Cuthbert's coffin
St Cuthbert's coffin (late 7th century) has an exceptional realisation
Christogram written in Anglo-Saxon runes, as ᛁᚻᛋ
ᛉᛈᛋ, as it were "IHS XPS", with the chi rendered as the eolh
rune (the old z or algiz rune) and the rho rendered as the p-rune.
In the Latin-speaking Christianity of medieval Western Europe (and so
among Catholics and many Protestants today), the most common
Christogram became "IHS" or "IHC", denoting the first three letters of
the Greek name of Jesus, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, iota-eta-sigma, or
The Greek letter iota is represented by I, and the eta by H, while the
Greek letter sigma is either in its lunate form, represented by C, or
its final form, represented by S. Because the Latin-alphabet letters I
and J were not systematically distinguished until the 17th century,
"JHS" and "JHC" are equivalent to "IHS" and "IHC".
"IHS" is sometimes interpreted as meaning "Jesus Hominum (or
Hierosolymae) Salvator", ("Jesus, Saviour of men [or: of Jerusalem]"
in Latin) or connected with In Hoc Signo. Such interpretations are
known as backronyms. Used in
Latin since the seventh century, the
first use of IHS in an English document dates from the fourteenth
century, in The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman. In the
15th century, Saint
Bernardino of Siena
Bernardino of Siena popularized the use of the
three letters on the background of a blazing sun to displace both
popular pagan symbols and seals of political factions like the Guelphs
and Ghibellines in public spaces (see Feast of the Holy Name of
Jesus). The IHS monogram with the H surmounted by a cross above three
nails and surrounded by a Sun is the emblem of the Jesuits, according
to tradition introduced by
Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola in 1541.
English-language interpretations of "IHS" have included "In His
IHS or JHS
Christogram of western Christianity.
Medieval-style IHC monogram.
Intertwined IHS monogram, Saint-Martin's Church, L'Isle-Adam,
The Jesuit emblem from a 1586 print.
In Eastern Christianity, the most widely used
Christogram is a
four-letter abbreviation, ΙϹ ΧϹ — a traditional abbreviation of
the Greek words for "Jesus Christ" (i.e., the first and last letters
of each of the words "ΙΗϹΟΥϹ ΧΡΙϹΤΟϹ", with the lunate
sigma "Ϲ" common in medieval Greek), and written with titlo
(diacritic) denoting scribal abbreviation (І҃С Х҃С).
On icons, this
Christogram may be split: "ΙϹ" on the left of the
image and "ΧϹ" on the right. It is sometimes rendered as "ΙϹ ΧϹ
ΝΙΚΑ", meaning "
Jesus Christ Conquers." "ΙϹΧϹ" may also be
seen inscribed on the Ichthys. In the traditional icon of Christ
Pantokrator, Christ's right hand is shown in a pose where his fingers
bend and cross to form the letters ΙϹ, Χ, and Ϲ.
Depiction of the "ΙϹ ΧϹ ΝΙΚΑ" arrangement in medieval Greek
"ΙϹ ΧϹ ΝΙΚΑ" cross on the obverse of a 12th-century Sicilian
coin (Roger II)
Christ Pantocrator on the
Holy Crown of Hungary
Holy Crown of Hungary (12th century)
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (1810)
Holy Name of Jesus
Names and titles of Jesus
^ The portmanteau of Christo- and -gramma is modern, first introduced
in German as Christogramm in the mid-18th century. Adoption into
Christogram dates to c. 1900.
^ Chrisimus (par les Bénédictins de St. Maur, 1733–1736), in: du
Cange, et al., Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, ed. augm.,
Niort : L. Favre, 1883‑1887, t. 2, col. 317b. "CHRISIMUS, Nomen
Christi abbreviatum in antiquis instrumentis secundum diversos casus
sic XPS. XPI. XPO. XPM. ubi media littera P. Græcum. Vox Chrisimus
legitur in Annal. Benedict. tom. 5. pag. 7."
^ Crismon (par les Bénédictins de St. Maur, 1733–1736), in: du
Cange, et al., Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, ed. augm.,
Niort : L. Favre, 1883‑1887, t. 2, col. 621b. "CRISMON, Nota
quæ in libro ex voluntate uniuscujusque ad aliquid notandum ponitur.
Papias in MS. Bituric. Crismon vel Chrismon proprie est Monogramma
Christi sic expressum ☧" 1 chrismon (par les Bénédictins de St.
Maur, 1733–1736), in: du Cange, et al., Glossarium mediae et infimae
latinitatis, ed. augm., Niort : L. Favre, 1883‑1887, t. 2, col.
318c, citing Heumann. de re Diplom. inde a Carol. M. § 12;
Murator. Antiquit. Ital. tom. 3. col. 75.
^ a b Grigg, Robert (December 1977). ""Symphōnian Aeidō tēs
Basileias": An Image of Imperial Harmony on the Base of the Column of
Arcadius". The Art Bulletin. 59 (4): 477; 469–482.
^ Plato. Timaeus, 8.36b and 8.36c: "And thus the whole mixture out of
which he cut these portions was all exhausted by him. This entire
compound divided lengthways into two parts, which he joined to one
another at the centre like the letter X, and bent them into a circular
form, connecting them with themselves and each other at the point
opposite to their original meeting-point; and, comprehending them in a
uniform revolution upon the same axis, he made the one the outer and
the other the inner circle." "The two great circles of the heavens,
the equator and the ecliptic, which, by intersecting each other form a
sort of recumbent chi and about which the whole dome of the starry
heavens swings in a wondrous rhythm, became for the Christian eye a
heavenly cross." Rahner & Battershaw 1971, "Mystery of the Cross",
pp. 49–50. See also Grigg (1977:477)
^ Justin. Apologia, 1.60.
^ Latura 2012, pp. 880–886.
^ The symbol was moved to storage for the refurbishments under
Pellegrino Tibaldi and re-instated in the choir on 6 September 1669.
(storiadimilano.it). Use of the name Chrismon is apparently based on
the term crismon as used by
Landulf of Milan (I.12). Landulf's mention
of a crismon of
Saint Ambrose clearly refers to chrism, i.e. holy oil,
not a symbol. I. A. Ferrai, "I Fonti di Landolfo Seniore", Bullettino
dell'Istituto storico italiano 14 (1895), p. 29.
^ Allegory of the Church by Calvin Kendall 1998
ISBN 1-4426-1309-2 page 137
^ while in English literature of the 19th to mid 20th century,
chrismon refers to the
Chi Rho monogram exclusively, the
German-language usage has also come to be adopted in some cases in the
specific context of medieval sigla, especially in works translated
from German into English, e.g. Hans Belting, Edmund Jephcott (trans.),
Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art
(1997), pp. 107-109. For German usage, see Ersch et al., Volume 1,
Issue 29 of Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste,
1837, p. 303 (in German). Johann Christoph Gatterer, Elementa artis
diplomaticae universalis (1765), p. 145 ( Abriß der Diplomatik 1798,
^ Johann Christoph Gatterer, Abriß der Diplomatik (1798), p. 64f.
Carl Ernst Bohn, Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek vol. 111 (1792), p.
^ Christian sacrament and devotion by Servus Gieben 1997
ISBN 90-04-06247-5 page 18
^ The Continuum encyclopedia of symbols by Udo Becker 2000
ISBN 0-8264-1221-1 page 54
^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Holy Name of Jesus". newadvent.org.
^ a b Maere, René. "IHS." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New
York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.
September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library
^ Bush, Brian Paige; (NA), Bush (1 March 2004). His Blueprint In The
Bible: A Study Of The Number Three In Scripture. Dorrance Publishing
Co. p. 9. ISBN 9780805963823.
^ Symbols of the Christian faith by Alva William Steffler 2002
ISBN 0-8028-4676-9 page 67
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