Christ the King

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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]

Many Christian denominations consider the kingly office of Christ to be one of the threefold offices: Christ is a prophet, priest, and king.[2]

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

According to a tradition followed most prominently by the Catholic Church, Mary is given the title of Queen of Heaven.

Biblical basis[edit]

In the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel proclaims to Mary, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."[3]

Outside of the gospels, 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), adapting the Pentateuch's declaration, for the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords,[4] to Jesus Christ. In the Book of Revelation it is declared that the Lamb is "King of kings, and Lord of lords".[3]


The concept of Christ as king was the subject of an address given by Eusebius about AD 314. Depictions of the imperial Christ arise in the later part of the fourth century.[5]

Pius XI[edit]

Stained glass window of Christ the King, Tipperary, Ireland

Ubi arcano Dei consilio[edit]

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."[6]

Quas primas[edit]

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."[7] 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.[8]

Early Propagation[edit]

The Christ the King monument and National shrine in Almada, Portugal

In November 1926, the Pontiff gave his assent to the establishment of the first church dedicated to Christ under the title of King. The Church of Our Lord, Christ the King, a promising young parish in the neighborhood of Mount Lookout, Cincinnati, which had previously been operating out of a pharmacy located in the neighborhood square, soon began to flourish. In May 1927, a proper sanctuary and neighborhood icon was consecrated. Designed by famed church architect Edward J. Schulte, the building exemplifies the designer's signature marriage of art deco decoration in Brutalist construction, principally arranged to mimic Ancient liturgical spaces of early Christianity.[9]

Feast of Christ the King[edit]

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, Lutherans 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.

Things named after Christ the King[edit]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. James Strong and John McClintock; Harper and Brothers; NY; 1880Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b Hodge, Archibald Alexander, "The Kingly Office of Christ", Popular Lectures of Theological Themes, Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1887, p. 260Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Deuteronomy 10:17
  5. ^ Beskow, Per. Rex Gloriae: The Kingship of Christ in the Early Church, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014, ISBN 9781625646415
  6. ^ Pope Pius XI. "Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio", 23 December 1922
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ O'Donnell, Timothy Terrance. Heart of the Redeemer, Ignatius Press, 1992 ISBN 9780898703962
  9. ^ Our Lord, Christ the King (Cincinnati, Ohio) (July 19, 2021). "History".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]