The Chi Rho ( // ; also known as chrismon ) is one of the earliest forms of christogram, formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters—chi and rho (ΧΡ)—of the Greek word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Christos) in such a way that the vertical stroke of the rho intersects the center of the chi.
The Chi-Rho symbol was used by the Roman Emperor Constantine I (r. 306–337) as part of a military standard (vexillum). Constantine's standard was known as the Labarum. Early symbols similar to the Chi Rho were the Staurogram (
In pre-Christian times, the Chi-Rho symbol was also to mark a particularly valuable or relevant passage in the margin of a page, abbreviating chrēston (good).Some coins of Ptolemy III Euergetes (r. 246–222 BC) were marked with a Chi-Rho.
Although formed of Greek characters, the device (or its separate parts) is frequently found serving as an abbreviation in Latin text, with endings added appropriate to a Latin noun, thus XPo, signifying Christo, "to Christ", the dative form of Christus.
The Chi Rho symbol has two Unicode codepoints: U+2627☧CHI RHO in the Miscellaneous symbols block and U+2CE9⳩COPTIC SYMBOL KHI RO in the Coptic block.
According to Lactantius, : coeleste signum dei) on the shields of his soldiers. The description of the actual symbol chosen by Emperor Constantine the next morning, as reported by Lactantius, is not very clear: it closely resembles a Chi-Rho or a staurogram (
Eusebius of Caesarea (died in 339) gave two different accounts of the events. In his church history, written shortly after the battle, when Eusebius hadn't yet had contact with Constantine, he doesn't mention any dream or vision, but compares the defeat of Maxentius (drowned in the Tiber) to that of the biblical pharaoh and credits Constantine's victory to divine protection.
In a memoir of the Roman emperor that Eusebius wrote after Constantine's death (On the Life of Constantine, circa 337–339), a miraculous appearance is said to have come in Gaul long before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. In this later version, the Roman emperor had been pondering the misfortunes that befell commanders who invoked the help of many different gods, and decided to seek divine aid in the forthcoming battle from the One God. At noon, Constantine saw a cross of light imposed over the sun. Attached to it, in Greek characters, was the saying "Τούτῳ Νίκα!" (“In this sign you will conquer!”).Not only Constantine, but the whole army saw the miracle. That night, Christ appeared to the Roman emperor in a dream and told him to make a replica of the sign he had seen in the sky, which would be a sure defence in battle.
Eusebius wrote in the Vita that Constantine himself had told him this story "and confirmed it with oaths" late in life "when I was deemed worthy of his acquaintance and company." "Indeed", says Eusebius, "had anyone else told this story, it would not have been easy to accept it."
Eusebius also left a description of the labarum, the military standard which incorporated the Chi-Rho sign, used by Emperor Constantine in his later wars against Licinius.
An early visual representation of the connection between the Crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection, seen in the 4th century sarcophagus of Domitilla in Rome, the use of a wreath around the Chi-Rho symbolizes the victory of the Resurrection over death.
After Constantine, the Chi-Rho became part of the official imperial insignia. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence demonstrating that the Chi-Rho was emblazoned on the helmets of some Late Roman soldiers. Coins and medallions minted during Emperor Constantine's reign also bore the Chi-Rho. By the year 350, the Chi-Rho began to be used on Christian sarcophagi and frescoes. The usurper Magnentius appears to have been the first to use the Chi-Rho monogram flanked by Alpha and Omega, on the reverse of some coins minted in 353.In Roman Britannia, a tesselated mosaic pavement was uncovered at Hinton St. Mary, Dorset, in 1963. On stylistic grounds, it is dated to the 4th century; its central roundel represents a beardless male head and bust draped in a pallium in front of the Chi-Rho symbol, flanked by pomegranates, symbols of eternal life. Another Romano-British Chi-Rho, in fresco, was found at the site of a villa at Lullingstone (illustrated). The symbol was also found on Late Roman Christian signet rings in Britain.
In Insular Gospel books, the beginning of Matthew 1:18, at the end of his account of the genealogy of Christ and introducing his account of the life, so representing the moment of the Incarnation of Christ, was usually marked with a heavily decorated page, where the letters of the first word "Christi" are abbreviated and written in Greek as "XPI", and often almost submerged by decoration.Though the letters are written one after the other and the "X" and "P" not combined in a monogram, these are known as Chi-Rho pages.
Famous examples are in the Book of Kells and Book of Lindisfarne.The "X" was regarded as the crux decussata , a symbol of the cross; this idea is found in the works of Isidore of Seville and other patristic and Early Medieval writers. The Book of Kells has a second Chi-Rho abbreviation on folio 124 in the account of the Crucifixion of Christ, and in some manuscripts the Chi-Rho occurs at the beginning of Matthew rather than mid-text at Matthew 1:18. In some other works like the Carolingian Godescalc Evangelistary, "XPS" in sequential letters, representing "Christus" is given a prominent place.
Constantine the Great, also known as Constantine I, was a Roman Emperor who ruled between AD 306 and 337. Born in Naissus, in Dacia Ripensis, the city now known as Niš, he was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman Army officer of Illyrian origins. His mother, Helena, was Greek. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west, in AD 293. Constantine was sent east, where he rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under Emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia (Britain). Constantine was acclaimed as emperor by the army at Eboracum after his father's death in AD 306. He emerged victorious in the civil wars against Emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of the eastern and western empires by AD 324.
The labarum was a vexillum that displayed the "Chi-Rho" symbol ☧, a christogram formed from the first two Greek letters of the word "Christ" — Chi (χ) and Rho (ρ). It was first used by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great.
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius was an early Christian author who became an advisor to the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine I, guiding his religious policy as it developed, and a tutor to his son Crispus. His most important work is the Institutiones Divinae, an apologetic treatise intended to establish the reasonableness and truth of Christianity to pagan critics.
The Battle of the Milvian Bridge took place between the Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius on 28 October 312. It takes its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, and his head was paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle.
Early Christian art and architecture or Paleochristian art is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from the earliest period of Christianity to, depending on the definition used, sometime between 260 and 525. In practice, identifiably Christian art only survives from the 2nd century onwards. After 550 at the latest, Christian art is classified as Byzantine, or of some other regional type.
Constantinian shift is a term used by some theologians and historians of antiquity to describe the political and theological aspects and outcomes of the 4th-century process of Constantine's integration of the imperial government with the Catholic Church that began with the First Council of Nicaea. The term was popularized by the Mennonite theologian John H. Yoder.
A monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol. Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos. A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a cypher and is not a monogram.
The Helmet of Constantine was a helmet or form of helmet worn by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, now lost, which featured in his imperial iconography. According to a story recorded by Ambrose and others, it included relics gathered in the Holy Land by his mother, empress Helena. Constantine's conversion to Christianity, which happened around AD 300, was of great importance. In this period it was believed that touching the body of the deceased or even something that came in contact with the person who had died was said to have special powers. This belief started a huge obsession with finding these relics to protect churches, cities, and even people.
Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and a title of Christ and God in the Book of Revelation. This pair of letters are used as Christian symbols, and are often combined with the Cross, Chi-rho, or other Christian symbols.
A Christogram 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 Christian Church.
"In hoc signo vinces" is a Latin phrase conventionally translated into English as "In this sign thou shalt conquer".
During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (AD 306–337), Christianity began to transition to the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Historians remain uncertain about Constantine's reasons for favoring Christianity, and theologians and historians have often argued about which form of early Christianity he subscribed to. There is no consensus among scholars as to whether he adopted his mother Helena's Christianity in his youth, or, as claimed by Eusebius of Caesarea, encouraged her to convert to the faith he had adopted himself.
The Cantabrian labarum is a modern interpretation of the ancient military standard known by the Romans as Cantabrum. It consists of a purple cloth on which there is what would be called in heraldry a "saltire voided " made up of curved lines, with knobs at the end of each line.
A Chrismon tree is an evergreen tree often placed in the chancel or nave of a church during Advent and Christmastide. The Chrismon tree was first used by North American Lutherans in 1957, although the practice has spread to other Christian denominations, including Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, and the Reformed. As with the Christmas tree, the evergreen tree itself, for Christians, "symbolizes the eternal life Jesus Christ provides". However, the Chrismon tree differs from the traditional Christmas tree in that it "is decorated only with clear lights and Chrismons made from white and gold material", the latter two being the liturgical colours of the Christmas season.
Christian symbolism is the use of symbols, including archetypes, acts, artwork or events, by Christianity. It invests objects or actions with an inner meaning expressing Christian ideas.
The Civil wars of the Tetrarchy were a series of conflicts between the co-emperors of the Roman Empire, starting in 306 AD with the usurpation of Maxentius and the defeat of Severus, and ending with the defeat of Licinius at the hands of Constantine I in 324 AD.
The IX monogram or XI monogram is a type of early Christian monogram looking like the spokes of a wheel, sometimes within a circle.
The Resurrection of Jesus has long been central to Christian faith and Christian art, whether as a single scene or as part of a cycle of the Life of Christ. In the teachings of the traditional Christian churches, the sacraments derive their saving power from the passion and resurrection of Christ, upon which the salvation of the world entirely depends. The redemptive value of the resurrection has been expressed through Christian art, as well as being expressed in theological writings.
The History of Constantine is a series of tapestries designed by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens and Italian artist Pietro da Cortona depicting the life of Constantine I, the first Christian emperor of Ancient Rome. In 1622, Rubens painted the first twelve oil sketches that were used as guides, and the tapestries themselves were woven in the workshop of Marc Comans and François de la Planche in the Faubourg Saint-Marcel in Paris by 1625, transforming each small sketch into a sumptuous creation of wool, silk, and gold and silver threads that could easily fill a wall. An additional five designs were painted by Cortona in 1630 and woven in the atelier of Cardinal Francesco Barberini in Rome over the next decade.
The Baptistery of Albenga is a paleochristian religious structure in Albenga, province of Savona, in the region of Liguria of northern Italy. It is an example of 5th-century late-Ancient Roman architecture with mosaic decoration, and stands adjacent to the Albenga Cathedral of San Michele Arcangelo.