Constantine: In This Sign Shall You Conquer!
Constantine: In This Sign Shall You Conquer!
On the eve of a battle with his rival for the throne of Rome, Constantine reported that he had a dream of Jesus followed by a vision of a cross superimposed on the sun.
In hoc signo vinces
Labarum is the name by which the military standard adopted by Constantine the Great after his celebrated vision (Lactantius, How the Persecutors Died 44), was known in antiquity. The original labarum, designed under the emperor’s direction on the day subsequent to the appearance of the “cross of light”, is described by Eusebius (Vita Constant., I:26) as “a long spear, overlaid with gold”, which with a transverse bar formed the figure of a cross. “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 centre.” These two letters formed what is known as the monogram of Constantine, so called — not because it was the invention of this emperor, for it had been a familiar Christian symbol prior to his conversion — but because of the great popularity it enjoyed from the date of its appearance on the imperial standards. From the cross-bar of the spear, was suspended a purple banner with the Greek inscription TOUTO NIKA — i.e. conquer by this (sign), usually rendered in Latin “In hoc signo vinces” (in this sign thou shalt conquer). This banner, square in form, covered with a rich embroidery of precious stones, and “being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder”. The part of the staff immediately above the embroidered banner was adorned with medallions of the emperor and his children. Fifty soldiers of the imperial guard, distinguished for bravery and piety, were entrusted with the care and defense of the new sacred standard (Vita Constant., II:8). Standards, similar to the original labarum in its essential features were supplied to all the legions, and the monogram was also engraved on the soldiers’ shields. An idea of some of the deviations in form of the standards furnished to different divisions of the army may be obtained from several coins of Constantine’s reign still preserved. On one coin, for instance, the portrait of the emperor and his sons are represented on the banner instead of on the staff; on a second the banner is inscribed with the monogram and surmounted by the equal-armed cross, while the royal portraits, though on the shaft, are below instead of above the banner. In form, the labarum of Constantine was an adaptation of the already existing cavalry standard of the Roman army; the pagan emblems were merely replaced by Christian symbols. The term labarum, which is of uncertain derivation, was probably familiar in the Roman army from the reign of Hadrian. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08717c.htm
36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
37Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
9If any man have an ear, let him hear.
10He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
Constantine the Great:
Constantine in church history:
Constantine and Nicea:
Constantine and the Christian Church:
1And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
2And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
3And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
4And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
5And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
6And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
7And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
9And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
12And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
14And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
This peculiar sign is the chi rho, an early symbol used by Christians to represent the name of Christ.
The X and the P look as if they come from our alphabet, but they are in fact Greek letters which sound like ”chi” and “rho.” They are also the first two letters of the Greek name for Christ, Khristos.
In The Image of Christ: the catalogue of the exhibition SEEING SALVATION, Erika Langmuir writes:
“This monogram already existed among the pagans as an abbreviation of the Greek word khrestos, meaning ‘auspicious.’ It may have been for this reason, and not as a Christian emblem, that the Emperor Constantine first adopted it on the Roman imperial standard.”
From 320 CE the chi rho symbol spread throughout the Roman Empire and was used on tombs, coins and in other imperial state imagery.