Chi-Rho (Christogram, Labarum) Symbol



The Chi-Rho (pronounced "KEE-roe") is a Christian symbol consisting of the intersection of the capital Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ), which are the first two letters of "Christ" in Greek (ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, Christos). The Chi-Rho can represent either Christ or Christianity and is also known as a Christogram.

Chi-Rho

Chi-Rho

The Chi-Rho is also known as the labarum, which is based on the Latin word laureum, "military standard." This is based on Constantine's application of the Chi-Rho symbol to his military standard after receiving his famous vision before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312.

The church historian Eusebius, who spoke with the emperor about his experience, described the standard:

"On the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones, and within this the symbol of the Saviour's name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of the initial letters, the letter X intersection P at the center."

The Chi-Rho was used by Christians before Constantine but it became much more widespread after he adopted it. The chi-rho appeared on the coins of Constantine and his Christian successors, sometimes alone and sometimes as part of a military standard as described by Eusebius. It continues to be widely used today.

Image Gallery






Constantine coin with chi-rho
Coin of Constantine, with Chi-Rho on helmet.
Constantine coins
Constantinian coin with labara on reverse. Image: Forum Ancient Coins.
Coin with Chi-Rho
Coin of Constantine's successor Magnetius, with Chi-Rho and Alpha and Omega. Image: Forum Ancient Coins.
Early Chi-Rho
A pre-Constantinian Roman tile etched with the Chi-Rho in York, England.
4th century Chi-Rho from Roman villa in Britain
Chi-Rho wall painting from the 4th-century Lullingstone Roman villa in Kent, England.
Chi-Rho Roman mosaic
4th-century mosaic from inton St. Mary Villa, Dorset, England. Christ with a Chi-Rho halo.
Chi-Rho page in Book of Kells
Chi-Rho page of the Book of Kells (Folio 34r).
 




Sources

  1. "labarum." F.L. Cross, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (1997).
  2. "Labarum (Chi-Rho) - Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)