Chi Rho Symbol is an ancient Christian symbol, a Christogram that is made by overlaying the initial two letters (in capital) of the Greek word ‘Christos’ meaning ‘Christ’. Pronounced as ‘KEE-roe’, the monogram looks to have been formed with the English alphabets X and P. In fact, it is the Greek alphabet ‘chi’ that resembles X and ‘rho’ that looks like P. The Chi Rho symbol represents both Christ and Christianity and exists today in several variations. It is also behind the practice of abbreviating ‘Christ’ in Christmas to ‘X’.
Though the contemporary representation of Chi Rho symbol shows the two lines of chi crossing at 90 degrees, its early symbols have them crossed at the angle formed by the intersection of the celestial equator and the solar ecliptic path.
The Chi Rho symbol has pre-Christian connections and is believed to have been revered by the pagan Greeks as representative of good fortune. Pagan Greek scribes used the symbol in the margin to mark passages they considered especially significant or relevant, with the letters Chi and Rho denoting ‘Chreston’ that means ‘good’. The sign has also been found on the coins of Ptolemy III (246-222 BCE)
However, Chi Rho gained widespread popularity and found much use by the Christians after it was adopted by the great Roman military commander, Emperor Constantine I as a vexillum (military standard). History has it that the symbol appeared to Constantine in a vision or dream before he fought the Battle of the Milivian Bridge outside Rome in 312 A.D. and he had it put on his soldiers’ shields. His army won the battle and subsequently, the deeply affected emperor legalized the religion of Christianity across the Roman Empire. Later, the symbol also appeared on the coins of Emperor Constantine and his successors.
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