When we walk among the many and varied grave markers anywhere in the world, we notice that while some are elaborate and complex in their imagery, others convey a message about the deceased in a simple yet significant way. This next symbol we are about to study is of a simple design – the three letters I, H and S overlaid upon one another.
The letters signify the Latin phrase ” In hoc signo vince”, which in English means: “In this sign you shall conquer”.
This phrase originates from the Emperor Constantine, who, on his way to do battle against Maxentius for the right to rule Rome, witnessed above the bright noon day sun a vibrant cross, and below that cross the Greek words, “Ev Touwtwi vika”, which was later translated into Latin, “In hoc signo vince”. According to legend, Constantine failed to understand the vision’s meaning until the following evening. While Constantine slept, Christ appeared to him in a dream and revealed the meaning of the message, and gave him instruction that he was to use a symbol known as the “Chi Rho” , to aid his army in defeating his foes. The next morning when he awoke, Constantine ordered his troops to paint the divine symbol on their shields.
The two armies collided later that morning, and as Christ revealed, Constantine’s army defeated Maxentius’s forces.
Whether or not we believe the otherworldly particulars as fact, one definite truth cannot be contested – Constantine won the Battle Of The Milvian Bridge and became supreme ruler of Rome. And as a result, Christianity became legal in Rome under Constantine’s rule.
Another interesting point to note is that, while this symbol appeared on Roman Shields all throughout Constantine’s rule, he himself did not become baptized until he was on his death bead. Historians speculate that in order to keep a government of predominantly practicing Pagans at ease, he himself had to exhibit neutrality.
To the right is one of many examples of the “Chi Rho” symbol.