I have seen in a church a cross with a loop off the top that makes the vertical look like a P:

Does this symbol have a name? What is its meaning? From what does it derive? Can you supply any more interesting information about it?

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    It could be worth saving. What about expanding it slightly: why is it significant to particular congregations or denominations? I'd like to know which sects use this symbol and how it is used, if it merely replaces the cross or is used beside it, etc.
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 21:50
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    Ha... I guess Google customized the results. When I searched for cross with p, it gave me results like: "JSON-P: Safer cross-domain Ajax with JSON-P/JSONP" -- very little or nothing about a cross with a P-shape in it. So this question could still merit a place.
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 1, 2012 at 21:59
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    can you post a picture so we might be able to narrow this down?
    – warren
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 13:54
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    note, this isn't a"P" but a "rho," the Greek letter that makes the "r" sound in English. The "P" in Greek is "pi" just like you learn in math class. Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 18:54
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    Mind marking this as answered? Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


Actually, this symbol is a "tau-rho," not a "chi-rho." Instead of being a shortened form of the word "Christ" (Χριστος), generally speaking the Tao-Rho is thought to be a shortened form of the words "cross" and "crucify" (σταυρος, σταυροω). Larry Hurtado has speculated that it may also be the first pictoral representation of Jesus on a cross (the loop of the "P" is the head). See Hurtado's The Earliest Christian Artifacts pp. 135ff, he calls it a "staurogram."


Answering my own question, I found this, which is different: Staurogram Christliche Symbolik (Menzel) I 193 2.jpg

The Staurogram (meaning monogram of the cross, from the Greek: ΣTAΥPOΣ meaning cross), or Monogrammatic Cross or Tau-Rho symbol, is composed by a tau (Τ) superimposed on a rho (Ρ). The Staurogram was first used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts such as P66, P45 and P75, almost like a nomina sacra.[14]

Ephrem the Syrian in the 4th-century explained these two united letters stating that the tau refers to the cross, and the rho refers to the Greek word "help" (Greek: Βoηθια) which has the numeric value of 100 as the letter rho has. In such a way the symbol expresses the idea that the Cross saves.[14] The two letters tau and rho can also be found separately as symbols on early Christian ossuaries:[15] the tau was considered a symbol of salvation due to the identification of the tau with the sign which in Ezechiel 9:4 was marked on the forehead of the saved ones, or due to the tau-shaped outstretched hands of Moses in Exodus 17:11.[14] The rho by itself can refer to Christ as Messiah because Abraham, taken as symbol of the Messiah, generated Isaac according to a promise made by God when he was one hundred years old, and 100 is the value of rho.

So my take-away is that the symbol derives from save/salvation and cross/Christ, or Christ saves (or perhaps faith in Christ saves).

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    Your take-away should be that it's a "shortened form of the word "Christ" (Χριστος)" anything else is reading too much into it.
    – user1054
    Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 3:04
  • Yeah. This is a writing convention—part of a larger phenomenon often referred to as nomina sacra. Seriously, check out Hurtado's book (see my answer). Commented Sep 4, 2012 at 18:51

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