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January 31, 2016

In a previous article I put up portraits of the first four archimandrites of the White Monastery Federation, Saints Pishoi, Pcol, Shenoute and Besa – portraits that go back to the 7-th-century.

One thing obvious in all four portraits is the Christian symbol that is inscribed on each side of their schema. I take that of Besa as a representative:

Schema signs.PNG

Schema sign2

This sign on each side of the saints’ schema is puzzling: they are not simply the Chi-Rho sign that is a monogram for Christ (superimposing the first two capital letters chi and rho (ΧΡ) of the Greek word “ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ” =Christ). The sign we see in the schemata of the first four leaders seem to contain two superimposed chi and it is not clear if they are actually superimposed on rho: the “letter” – if it was a letter – superimposed on is strange. I don’t know the meaning or significance of that. In an email exchange with Dr Elizabeth Bolman, she does not seem to recognise the meaning of the symbol.

Any contribution by Coptologists on the meaning and significance of the symbol will be greatly appreciated!


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