Christogram IHS

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A Christogram placed on a grave cross
IHS on the coat of arms of Pope Francis.

The Christogram IHS is a monogram being a symbol of Jesus Christ in form of acronym.

From Greek it is an abbreviation of the name IHΣΟΥΣ (Jesus).

In Eastern Orthodox Church the Christogram is composed with letters X and P and I and X arranged into the cross. They are the first letters of one from two words in Greek language: Christ and Jesus Christ.

In the Western culture there exist the compositions: "IHS" and also "IHC" being the first letters (iota-eta-sigma) of the name Jesus in Greek alphabet: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (Ίησοῦς or ΙΗϹΟΥϹ with lunated sigma). The abbreviation in form "IHS" appeared in first time on the coins of Justinian II on the turn of the 7th and 8th centuries.

The order of Jesuits, in other words the Society of Jesus (Societas Iesu), adopted IHS as its fixed emblem - the symbol in 17th century. There appeared also Latin interpretations of the abbreviation IHS, among others:

  • Iesus Humilis Societas - Humble Society of Jesus,
  • Iesus Hominum Salvator - Jesus, Savior of men,

and also:

  • In hoc signo (vinces) - In this sign (you will win).

These developed inscriptions were formed the most probably because in Middle Ages people in wrong way had read the letter E as H.

According to a legend, this inscription with the cross was seen by emperor Constantine the Great in his sleep before the battle against Maxentius in 312 on the Ponte Milvio.

Commentators unfriendly to the Catholic Church sometimes interpret the abbreviation IHS as derived from the solar idols of the Egyptian mythology: Isis, Horus and Seth. Nevertheless, present scientific knowledge do not confirm such interpretations.[1]

References[change | change source]

  1. (Polish) Tomasz Dekert - Co oznacza skrót IHS? ("What does the abbreviation IHS mean?"), Dominikański Ośrodek Liturgiczny, date of access: 23rd of April 2009. A catholic source.