The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Recently, Rod attended a sung Eucharist at Holy Trinity Church, Blendworth. The augmented choir sang parts of The Armed Man - a Mass for Peace by the composer Karl Jenkins. Notably, this comprised:

The Kyrie

The Benedictus

Agnus Dei


When the priest ascended the beautiful octagonal pulpit made of marble to give the sermon on Peace in the World, Rod noticed an ornate cypher on the front of the structure. This he recognised as a Christogram which comprised the first three Greek letters of Christ, combined with a cross.

On the altar of our own church of St George the current ‘fair white linen cloth’ (as the canon expresses it) has embroidery at each end comprising a pattern element JHS and a cross. In various places this cypher - the Christogram is to be seen - on the stole of a priest, on church notice boards, on bishops’ mitres, on vestments and elsewhere. Sometimes the rendering appears to be IHS and occasionally IHC and in a variety of artistic formats. Rod’s design is shown as this month’s cover.

There are many analogous symbols, such as the Vesica Piscis (the fish design), the Celtic Chi-Rho and the following word square:






- which has been seen carved on such places as Hadrian’s Wall and the Catacombs of Rome. It is suppposed to be in Latin, translated as ‘Arepo the sower guides the wheels at work’. However, the Latin is hopelessly incorrect and it is much more likely that it is a recognition symbol like IHS. If the letters are rearranged in a cross acrostic, and A and O (Alpha and Omega) placed at each side then the word square becomes a cypher (an approximate anagram of  PATER NOSTER - the first words of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin), to let others know that the originator is Christian. This subterfuge was necessary during the times of persecution.

As for the initials IHS, other ways have been proposed of devising interpretations:

Jesu Hominem Salvator (Jesus Saviour of Mankind)

In Hoc Servitium (In His Service)

In Hoc Signo (this one was used as a war cry by the Emperor Constantine)

In His Steps

St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, used the monogram as his seal. The cypher should be looked for in its various forms wherever congregations meet.

Rod Dawson

Winter Edition 2013

A Christogram