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Christ the King, a detail from the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck. St Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent.

Christ the King is a title of Jesus in Christianity referring to the idea of the Kingdom of God where the Christ is described as seated at the Right Hand of God[1] (as opposed to the secular title of King of the Jews mockingly given at the crucifixion).

The title "Christ the King" is also frequently used as a name for churches, schools, seminaries, hospitals, and religious institutes.


Biblical basisEdit

The titles of "Christ" and "king" are not used together in the gospel, but "Christ" is in itself a royal title (i.e. "the anointed [king]"). In the Greek text, the Christ is explicitly identified as king (βασιλεύς) several times, so in Matthew 2:2 ("Where is the newborn king of the Jews?"). In John 18, Pilate refers to the implication that the Christ is a royal title by inquiring explicitly if Jesus claims to be the "king of the Jews" (βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων). Similarly, in John 1:49, a follower addresses Jesus as "the king of Israel" (ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ).

Outside of the gospel, the First Epistle to Timothy (6:14–15) explicitly applies the phrase of "king of kings and lord of lords" (Βασιλεὺς βασιλέων καὶ κύριος κυρίων), taken from the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 10:17) to Jesus Christ.


The concept of Christ as king is not a new idea. Around 314 it was the subject of an address given by Eusebius. Depictions of the imperial Christ arise in the later part of the fourth century.[2]

Pius XIEdit

Stained glass window of Christ the King, Tipperary, Ireland

Ubi arcano Dei consilioEdit

Pope Pius XI's first encyclical was Ubi arcano Dei consilio of December 1922. Writing in the aftermath of World War I, Pius noted that while there had been a cessation of hostilities, there was no true peace. He deplored the rise of class divisions and unbridled nationalism, and held that true peace can only be found under the Kingship of Christ as "Prince of Peace". "For Jesus Christ reigns over the minds of individuals by His teachings, in their hearts by His love, in each one's life by the living according to His law and the imitating of His example."[3]

Quas primasEdit

Christ's kingship was addressed again in the encyclical Quas primas of Pope Pius XI, published in 1925. Michael D. Greaney called it "possibly one of the most misunderstood and ignored encyclicals of all time."[4] The pontiff's encyclical quotes with approval Cyril of Alexandria, noting that Jesus's kingship was given to him by the Father, and was not obtained by violence: "'Christ,' he says, 'has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature.'" He also referenced Leo XIII's 1899 Annum sacrum wherein Leo relates the Kingship of Christ to devotion to his Sacred Heart.[5]

Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King in 1925 to remind Christians that their allegiance was to their spiritual ruler in heaven as opposed to earthly supremacy. Pope Benedict XVI remarked that Christ's kingship is not based on "human power" but on loving and serving others.[6]

The hymn "To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King", was written by Msgr. Martin B. Hellrigel in 1941 to the tune "Ich Glaub An Gott".[7]

Feast of Christ the KingEdit

Stained glass window at the Annunciation Melkite Catholic Cathedral in Roslindale, Massachusetts, depicting Christ the King in the regalia of a Byzantine emperor

The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. The General Roman Calendar of 1969 moved its observance in the Roman Rite to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the final Sunday of the liturgical year. Most Anglicans and some Protestants celebrate it on the same day. However, Catholics who observe the pre-Vatican II General Roman Calendar of 1960, and members of the Anglican Catholic Church celebrate it instead on the last Sunday of October, the Sunday before All Saints' Day, the day assigned in 1925.

Institutions named after Christ the KingEdit

Many religious facilities are named in honor of Christ the King:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 401, 1988: "The theme of Christ's heavenly session, announced here by the statement he sat down at the right hand of God, .. Hebrews 8:1 "we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven")"
  2. ^ Beskow, Per. Rex Gloriae: The Kingship of Christ in the Early Church, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014, ISBN 9781625646415
  3. ^ Pope Pius XI. "Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio", 23 December 1922
  4. ^ Greaney, Michael D.A Just Third Political Way The Concept of Sovereignty in Quas Primas Social Justice Review Archived October 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ O'Donnell, Timothy Terrance. Heart of the Redeemer, Ignatius Press, 1992 ISBN 9780898703962
  6. ^ Christ's Kingdom not based on human power, Pope says (Catholic World News Nov. 27, 2006)
  7. ^ "To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King",
  8. ^ Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, Georgia
  9. ^ Cathedral of Christ the King, Lexington, Kentucky Archived 2013-10-01 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Christ the King Cathedral, Lubbock, Texas
  11. ^ Christ the King Catholic Church, Silver Spring, Maryland Archived 2014-11-22 at
  12. ^ Christ the King Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas
  13. ^ Christ the King Episcopal Church, Stone Ridge, New York
  14. ^ Christ the King Baptist Church, Dacula, Georgia
  15. ^ Christ the King Seminary, Diocese of Buffalo
  16. ^ Christ the King Roman Catholic Church, Denver, Colorado

External linksEdit