Greek Initials

This page explains the meaning of the Greek letters and symbols that appear on paintings, icons and inscriptions.

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On many pieces of art – paintings, frescoes, carvings, tombs – appear Greek initials that abbreviate the longer names. The initials normally will appear in Capital Greek letters.

Some of the initials appear in a monogram – symbols made by overlapping or combining two or more letters. For example, the Chi-Rho two letters that represent Christ (see example below).



The following  lists common initials, provides and explanation and sample case, and maps them to the sites are featured in BibleWalks. Click on the site’s name to see more information on each site.


  • Chi-Rho, means: Christ – the 1st 2 letters of Christos in Greek
  • “P” in Greek is “r” in English

Click on the photos to  enlarge them.

(The XP appear s here as a monogram, together with ΑΩ)

Α Ω” , “A w”

  •      The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet,
  •    Represents that God is eternal – spanning the beginning and the end.

Alpha Omega in a tomb inscription


  • “IC XC” – stands for “Jesus Christ”.
  • IC XC means ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ  -“Jesus Christ”.



“ΜP θC”

  •  “ΜP θC”,  “ΜΡ ΘΥ” – Means “mother of God”
  •    or:  Theotokos, “God-bearer”
  •    MP – Mary in Greek. Refers to Virgin Mary.

“He Who Is”

  • “Ο ωΝ”     Means “He Who is”, refers to God or his messenger.
  • It is usually added on the halo

A detail of "Jesus calms the storm "


  • Sometimes appended  to “IC XC”, means “conquers”.

NIKA in a marker stone - station 8 in Via Dolorosa


  • “XC” – CHI and SIGMA
  • Means “Christ” (short for ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ)



  •       means Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ)


  • Greek: “Iesous  Nazoraios  Basileus ton Ioudaion”, meaning: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews


  • Tau + Phi
  • means ‘taphos‘ or ‘Sepulchre’ – the Holy Sepulcher
  • Symbol of the Greek Orthodox church

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This page was last updated on Mar 22, 2014

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