The Chi-Rho was revealed to Constantine on the eve of a crucial battle in 312AD when he was told by a heavenly voice in the evening sky that if he commanded his soldiers to put the XP (Ch & R) on their Standard and Shields, they would be victorious. This victory laid the foundation for Constantine to become ruler of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire.
Emperor Constantine invited 1,800 bishops of the Apostolic Christian Church from the Eastern and Western Empire to the Nicene Council in an effort to unify the Faith and quell the incessant arguments and heresies which then permeated Christianity. Despite the Imperial invitation only around 300, mainly from the East, attended. The result of their arduous, and sometimes physically violent, debates was the Nicene Creed, which solidified for the first time the doctrine of the Faith, declaring unity of belief in the ‘one holy universal Apostolic Church’ decades before any one group of Christians claimed to be the one true church.
It still took a full 66 years after the Nicene Council for Christianity to be adopted as the Roman Empire's official religion under Emperor Theodosius I. During this interim, paganism was far from defeated, and in 360AD Emperor Julian [The Apostate] even made a concerted effort to re-establish pagan dominance at the cost of The Faith only 5 years before the Kourion earthquake and the family's death.
, one can see that the Chi-Rho was revealed thirteen years before the Council of Nicaea was called, and a full sixty-eight years prior to Christianity finally becoming the Empire's only official religion.
So this ancient symbol does not in fact represent any one particular branch of Christianity, simply because it predates the formal organization of Christianity itself, and thus anyone’s claim to primacy.
On the evening of October 27th in the year 312AD, Constantine, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire stood poised to fight the Battle of Milvian Bridge against Maxentius, a fellow contender for the throne of the Western Rome. Faced with superior numbers, Constantine was pondering his strategy when the vision of a Chi-Rho [The Intertwined Greek Letters Χ and Ρ] appeared to him in the evening sky and a voice from the heavens spoke: "En toutoi nika" "In this sign you shall conquer."
That very night, he ordered the Chi-Rho, the monogram of Christ, to be emblazoned on his army’s shields, believing that if he fought in the name of Christ the following day, he would be victorious.
On October 28th 312AD the “Chi-Rho” vanquished the “Unconquerable Sun”, the pagan cult symbol of Mithras, protector of Constantine’s opponent and so changed the future of Christianity forever.
Constantine was already emperor of the east; he now entered Rome the indisputable emperor of the west as well, making him emperor of the entire Roman Empire.
His Christian mother Helena influenced her powerful son to make Christianity a public religion recognized by the Emperor and accepted throughout the empire. Constantine honored her wishes and in 313AD, by issuing the Edict of Milan, all Christians were protected and allowed to publicly practice their faith.
There were many different groups of practicing Christians spread throughout the empire, however, and not all professing the same beliefs. Arius a priest from Alexandria started preaching what became known as the Arian Heresy in 318 AD. A schism was formed by the great numbers of people who followed his teachings. Concerned by these events, the ever-pragmatic Constantine, (though still not fully a Christian himself; he was baptized on his death bed) realized that an empire-wide assembly of bishops had to be called to settle the matter. At his expense, Constantine ordered the bishops to go to Balhyunean Nicaea, and it was there that the Nicene Creed was created.
Constantine was the god-father of Christianity, for without his additional mandates which forbade sacrifices at pagan shrines, called for universal respect of the Sabbath, and minimized the Imperial Cult (the worship of himself as a god), Christianity would not have had enough protection and the chance to be firmly established in the empire. Although Christians were still persecuted in some parts of the Empire during this time, it was not anywhere on the scale of the previous three hundred years.
As Constantine was keeping his empire on course, his mother was busy looking for original Christian sites. She was determined to find Golgotha. Helen went to Jerusalem and after some coercion of local officials, they finally confirmed that the holy site she sought lay under the temple of Venus. The Romans, thinking they could stop the early Christians from praying at the place where their Savior died, built a temple over it. The irony being, of course, that the Romans had inadvertently preserved the exact place of the crucifixion by covering the site with a pagan temple.
Tradition has it that when Helen commanded that the temple be torn down, three crosses were found at the base of the rock. There was no longer any doubt in anyone’s mind as to which was the true cross after Helena ordered that a very sick person be laid on each of the crosses; the cross that cured the person was the Savior's. Once this was done, she took the cross and started home to Constantinople, Constantine's newly established capital city.
Cypriot tradition holds that on her way back, Helena stopped on the island and founded the monastery of Stavrovouni, the Mountain of the True Cross, where she left a small piece of the relic. In Kouka a small church is said to contain the sawdust collected when the true cross was cut into pieces. Helena also founded the monastery of St. Nicolas of the Cats on the Akrotiri Peninsula in southern Cyprus when she brought a boatload of cats to the island so as to control its immense snake population.
It was within 50 years of the time of Constantine and Helena that the Chi-Rho ring was being worn publicly in Kourion. The Chi-Rho symbol, Victory through Christ, that was given to Constantine was being worn on a ring found at the ‘earthquake house’ (click here), making this Christian ring not only one of the earliest pieces of Christian jewelry ever found, but also making it one of the earliest pieces to incorporate the monogram of Christ.
on the father's hand
The room where the young Christian family died
The Chi-Rho marks the place where they were found in 1987
Large parts of Kourion are still covered, and await excavation to this day...
The Heavenly Voice
said to Constantine:
(In this Triumph)
Fragment fro Kourion's Basilica bearing the inscription
"En Touto Nika"
The hilltop monastery of Stavrovouni is said to house a piece of the