Iesus Hominis salvator (Jesus savior of men)
Monogram that represents the name of Jesus. Its Greek origin is ΙΗΣ, the first 3 letters of the name of Jesus. It can be interpreted in Latin as Iesus Hominum Salvator.
In churches, we often find these three letters engraved on a crucifix or on stained glass. But what do they mean?
Contrary to a widely held belief, they do not mean “Jesus Hominum Salvator” nor “In Hoc Signo”. The letters IHS are what is called a “christogram”, which is an ancient abbreviation of the name of Jesus Christ.
In the third century, Christians used to shorten the name of Jesus and keep only the first three letters of his name in Greek: ΙΗΣ (Jesus writing himself ΙΗΣΟΥΣ). The Greek letter Σ (sigma) was then transcribed into the Latin alphabet as the S, so that the monogram changed to IHS.
At the beginning of the Christian era, it was a secret symbol used as a rallying sign. It was often engraved on the graves of Christians. Then in the 15th century, Saint Bernardine of Siena set about promoting the veneration of the holy name of Jesus and urged Christians to include the three letters IHS on the pediments of their houses. A century later, in 1541, Saint Ignatius of Loyola adopted the monogram to symbolize the new order he had just created: the Society of Jesus.
These three letters are now featured in Christian iconography all over the world.