Chi-Rho Stained Glass Roundels

Chi-Rho Stained Glass Roundels

The Chi Rho (one of the oldest forms of chrismon or symbols of Christ) is formed by superimposing the first two letters of the name ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ (Christos) in such a way that the vertical stroke of the rho intersects the center of the chi.

It started to be used as a Christian symbol in the 4th Century AD and appears – sometimes combined with the symbols for Alpha and Omega (‘the beginning and the end’) in a whole range of different settings and made from different media. Here are two very early versions: one, in stone, from Algeria, probably from the 4th Century; and the other in mosaic from the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, dating from about 425 AD.

It also appears in stained glass windows, both as an element of larger images or as individual roundels. Making such roundels seemed like an excellent idea particularly since the letter forms could be made from soldered edges between glass pieces.

Another motivation was to use some fragments of glass that came from a church in Ayrshire which was repairing its Victorian windows. It’s interesting to work with this as much thicker than most modern stained glass and has a distinctive ‘droplet’ pattern within it. And incorporating former church window glass into pieces like this seemed very appropriate. Here are two roundels, one using this (it’s the pale green glass) and another using all modern glass including green ‘florentine’ glass – another of my favourite materials.

Cutting circles from glass is always good fun and of course I realised that making the borders also produced a nice additional circle of glass for use in other projects (or other roundels, for that matter).

The completed roundels are about 12cm across and look very striking. On reflection, I prefer the version with the offset intersection between the P and the X which I later discovered is also thought to represent the celestial intersection between the equator or horizon, and the ecliptic (the apparent path of the sun across the sky).

I was very pleased with these little pieces – both as stained glass projects and religious symbols. I’ll be making more of these and if there is interest in them will put them on sale through the shop.

Patrick Carmichael

Experiments in stained glass and other media.

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