This is a Christian symbol that can appear in two forms, as the letters IHS or as a monogram. Both forms only differ in presentation. The meaning does not change as letters or a monogram. It can alternately be spelled IC, XC or XPS. There are many different interpretations of the meaning, however all agree that it essentially stands for the name of Jesus Christ. The symbol was used frequently by the French St Bernard in the 12th century as he urged followers to give devotion to the name of Jesus.
- The most common translation is that it stands for the first three letters of Jesus Christ’s name in Greek, iota eta sigma. When capitalised, the word eta appears as ‘H’.
- IHS can stand for the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator, or Jesus saviour of mankind.
- It can also be traced back to an 8th century Latin phrase dn ihs chs rex regnantium which translates to “Jesus Christ is king of kings”. In this instance, IHS simply stands for Jesus, spelt in the Latin as Ihesus.
- As IHSV it stands for In Hoc Signo Vinces or “In this sign you shall conquer” which is in reference to the battle of Constantine over Maxentius in which the Emperor was believed to have seen the sign of Jesus Christ in the sky and heard the phrase repeated to him.
- In my own research, I have been told that it stood for In His Service or In His Steps.
None of these interpretations are wrong and the meanings are so similar that it also doesn’t matter which one is right. For this symbol to appear on a headstone marks the Catholic faith, however as it has been seen on headstones in sections for other Christian denominations, this is not so strictly adhered to either.