Tombstone Tuesday-I H S Symbol

You have probably seen the letters I H S in a church, usually seen on the altar, church windows, vestments, and even on tombstones. These three letters are called a Christogram, which is a monogram or a combination of letters that form an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. It is an ancient way of writing the name Jesus that dates back to the third century.  

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

The Greek letters I H Σ (iota eta sigma) are the first three letters of ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, the Greek name of Jesus. The Greek letter Σ (sigma) is written as an S in Latin and is how we write the letter today.

I H S Symbol, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Ohio.

I H S Symbol, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio.

I H S Symbol, Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Schumm, Ohio.

In early Christianity I H S was a secret symbol to help identify fellow Christians. In the 1400s Christians put the symbol on their doorways to identify their dwelling as a Christian home.

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

Some translate the three letters as a Latin phrase, Iesus Hominum Salvator, meaning “Jesus Savior of Mankind.” Others erroneously use the letters as an acronym for “I Have Suffered” or “In His Service.” But the letters are not an acronym.

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

I H S Symbol, Catholic Cemetery, Celina, Ohio.

The Christogram I H S is usually found in Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches and cemeteries.  

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