Why St. Bernardine Created The IHS Christogram And What It Means

by History of the Church, Mass, Saints

St. Bernardine – A St. Paul of the 15th Century

St. Bernardine was from Siena, Italy and was ordained a Franciscan priest at the age of 24 in the year 1402. He took upon himself the poverty of the Franciscan Order and expressed an acute awareness for the needs of people of his time. He was known for his personal holiness and his seemingly endless energy and joyful vitality. The pope at the time compared Bernardine to a modern day St. Paul.

Before being ordained, the plague hit his hometown of Siena very hard. In this time of great difficulty, St. Bernardine offered to run the local hospital at the age of 20. He spent four months nursing the people who came for care. He did not succumb to the plague, but he was so exhausted from his hard work that he had a fever for several months afterwards.

A Franciscan Heart

St. Francis had given the charge to his order to preach about vice and virtue, punishment and glory. The great preacher of the 15th Century, St. Bernardine, did just that. Paganism had taken hold in many places as the result of the Renaissance return to Greco-Roman culture. This stirred up within the heart of St. Bernardine a desire to care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people.

St. Bernardine eventually became the General of the Friars of Strict Observance of the Franciscan Order. He pushed scholarship and a deep study of the law of the Church and the doctrines of the Faith. There were 140 friars in the community when he joined. Upon his death, there were 4,000. He gave his life to preaching and teaching, literally dying while traveling.

Overcoming Paganism and Division

As a prolific traveler and preacher, St. Bernardine saw clearly the paganism that had taken root once more in Italy. These many false gods and false beliefs were leading people astray. But, St. Bernardine knew well that “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)” than the name of Jesus.

St. Bernardine had a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He devised a monogram for the Holy Name of Jesus: IHS, written in gothic script and emblazoned on a sun. These are the capital Greek letters: iota, eta, and sigma. They are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek which is ΙΗΣΟΎΣ. Like other graphics that represent the name of Jesus or Christ, this is called a Christogram.

The Christogram was placed on a sun because there had been a resurgence in 15th Century Italy of sun worship. Byzantine Greeks had brought copies of the fourth-century Hymn to the Sun by Julian the Apostate, for example. The cult of Apollo needed to be replaced by the true and authentic worship of Jesus Christ, who alone is the sun that rises in the East and who is the only Son of the Father.

St. Bernardine would often exhibit this monogram devoutly at the end of his sermons to those listening. He also encouraged the faithful to place the monogram on their doorposts. At the time, there was deep political division between two groups: the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. St. Bernardine urged people to adopt the IHS rather than the banners of these two groups.

An Enduring Symbol for an Enduring Name

The IHS is therefore a symbol of peace, a symbol of orthodoxy, a symbol of fidelity to the Lord, and a powerful symbol to cling to Jesus and adore His Holy Name. The IHS would later be adopted by St. Ignatius of Loyola as the symbol for the Society of Jesus. Thus, the symbol has persisted from the time of the early Church to now.

Why St. Bernardine Created The IHS Christogram And What It Means

More Catholic Resources

Eucharist Quiz Catholic

Test Your Knowledge: Take The Eucharist Challenge Quiz!

Due to the overwhelming response from the first Eucharist quiz and the number of people who claimed that it was “too easy”, we have decided to publish a Eucharist Challenge.  We underestimated the knowledge of the average Catholic Link reader. We promise this one will stretch you a bit more and maybe even teach you […]

2 comments
Reconciliation Confession Quiz Catholic Sacraments

Sacrament Of Reconciliation QUIZ: What Do You Know?

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a crucial part of the Catholic faith. It is a gift from God that we can use to repair our relationship with Him and repent from our sin. Though many fear going to Confession, it is there that God gives us an abundance of mercy. “Let us not forget that […]

0 comments
How to Go to Catholic Mass Tips for Catholic Mass

10 Things You Should Know About Catholic Mass Etiquette

A few weeks ago during Mass the people in the pew behind me would not stop talking. They chatted away throughout the whole celebration. Needless to say, it was driving me crazy. I was getting more and more aggravated mostly because I was struggling to keep my own children quiet and they were setting a […]

0 comments
tips on how to pray for Catholics

How To Pray? 10 Types Of Prayer Christians Need In Their Lives

“I don’t have time to pray!,” some argue. “That is not true,” I tell them. They give me a thousand excuses and leave. Then time goes by and I observe them. Long hours spent watching TV and YouTube videos, checking Facebook, playing games, listening to music, pursuing a hobby… in short, everything is justifiable on […]

0 comments
The Protection and Significance of A St. Benedict Medal Explained!

The Protection And Significance Of The St. Benedict Medal Explained!

Though St. Benedict was born in 480 A.D., he is certainly a Saint for our times. He was a man of strength, conviction, and courage. Although he desired to live a life of solitude by choosing the life of a hermit and living in a cave, when word of his holiness and devout life reached […]

4 comments
How to Go to Eucharistic Adoration Visual Guide

Eucharistic Adoration | How To Make A Holy Hour

Steps For Making A Holy Hour Source: www.thegregorian.org More Adoration Resources 10 Surprising Things That Happen When You Go To Adoration More Often All Your Questions About Adoration Answered…What Is It? How Do I Go? What Do I Do? And More! Related content: Infographic: 4 Steps for Eucharistic Adoration A Saint’s Advice For When You […]

catholic religous orders 9 Images To Help Take The Confusion Out Of Identifying Religious Orders Of The Catholic Church

9 Images That Take The Confusion Out Of Identifying Religious Orders Of The Church

Do you ever get confused by the many religious orders that the Catholic Church has? Each individual order has their own particular character, or charism, attracting different people with the same common style of prayer, work and way of life. The religious orders are as rich and as varied as individual people are, meaning that […]

0 comments
St. Therese Prayer for Priests quote

Prayer For Priests | St. Therese of Lisieux

O Jesus, I pray for your faithful and fervent priests; for your unfaithful and tepid priests; for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for your tempted priests; for your lonely and desolate priests; for your young priests; for your dying priests; for the souls of your priests in purgatory. But […]

The Magnificat prayer of Mary

The Magnificat: Canticle of Mary And Magnifying Glass Of Intercessory Love

The Magnificat – otherwise known as the Canticle of Mary – is a beautiful, ancient, scriptural “song” of praise spoken by Our Lady. You may have heard the word thanks to the wonderful monthly publication that goes by the same name, but do you know the prayer, itself? “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” the […]

0 comments
visual guide to Lectio Divina How To Pray Lectio Divina? A Visual Step By Step Guide

How To Pray Lectio Divina? A Visual Step By Step Guide

“Lectio Divina” means divine reading in Latin. It’s an ancient practice that teaches us how to read, meditate on and live the Word of God. History tells us that it was the Blessed Guigo the Carthusian, who wrote the “most important stages” of this way of meditating the word. It’s not a prayer with fixed […]

0 comments

Keep Searching, Keep Learning

Our Newest Articles:

Catholic-Link