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Catholic Dictionary




A symbol of Christ, arranged as a monogram, comprising the first two letters, XP, of his name in Greek. First presented publicly in the fifth century, it has been found in catacomb inscriptions of the second century. The P is usually vertically rendered with a single crossbar producing the X, but sometimes an additional transverse cross is used for embellishment and the initials A and Ω are free or attached to the added bar. Emperor Constantine (d. 337) employed it as an emblem on his military standard, the labarum and ancient Welsh and Scottish tomb monuments bear this sacred symbol carved in stone. As a monogram denoting triumph it fell into disuse after the fall of Rome, the Cross supplanting it. (Etym. Greek chi. X; rho, P.)