According to legend, on October 27th 312, the day before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Emperor Constantine the Great had a vision, which ended up changing the course of history.
Constantine saw a cross in the sky emblazoned with the Greek words, Εν τούτῳ νίκα (In this sign, conquer). It is said that the emperor then ordered the standards of his legions to display the Chi-Rho monogram* rather than the imperial eagle.
There is a fine fresco of the Vision of the Cross in the Sala di Costantino (Hall of Constantine) in the Vatican Museums. It was painted between 1520 and 1524 by Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle, three assistants of the great Renaissance master Raphael, who died on April 6th 1520.
*The Chi-Rho monogram is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters--chi and rho (ΧΡ)—of the Greek word ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Christos) in such a way that the vertical stroke of the rho intersects the centre of the chi.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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