CHRISTOGRAMS (MONOGRAMMA CHRISTI) - IHS - IN HOC SIGNIO - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
A Christogram (from the Latin phrase - Monogramma Christi) is a combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for Jesus Christ. One of the oldest Christograms is the superimposed Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), which are the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek. The first three letters of “Jesus” spelled in Greek are iota, eta, and sigma. These letters can be symbolized by IHS or IHC (as seen on some altars or on some crosses carried before clergy in procession). The Greek letter iota is represented by “I” and the eta by “H”. The Greek letter sigma is either represented by a “C” in its handwritten form, or by the letter “S” in the letter’s original form. Another explanation for the derivation of the letters “IHS” is based upon a vision of the Roman emperor Constantine the evening before the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. Supposedly, Constantine looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it with the words, “in hoc signo vinces” (which are abbreviated, “IHS”). This phrase is translated in English to: “In this sign you will conquer”. Constantine was victorious and made Christianity the state religion of Rome.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
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