IC XC

This past weekend I was visiting a friend in Washington State and, at the church we visited, saw the following cross hanging above the altar:

Cross at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Yakima

…and this reminded me of something else which I came to understand through studying Greek that I had meant to share…


Okay Catholics, what does the lettering “IC XC” at the top of the cross mean?

The altar cross with “IC XC” lettering

As in my previous post, if you don’t know the answer to this, you are certainly not alone…

IC now what it means…

Like the “IHS”, the “IC XC” is a Christogram, a monogram of Jesus’ name. As we saw last time, “Jesus Christ”, when it is translated into Greek, looks like this:

ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ

If we take the first and last letters of ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (“Jesus”) and ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (“Christ”) we are left with:

ΙΣ ΧΣ

The sigma character (“Σ”) was often represented using a lunate sigma which looks like a “C”, thereby giving us:

IC XC

Finally, a line (“titlo”) is often placed over each pair of letters to indicate that it is an abbreviated sacred name. So there we go! “IC XC” is yet another shorthand for writing “Jesus Christ” in Greek.

IC XC, Jesus Christ

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