If there is one person that has been painted the most in the history of mankind, it has to be Jesus Christ. There are thousands upon thousands of paintings of Jesus, especially during the crucifixion. But you may have noticed something in many of the older depictions of Jesus being crucified. Above his head there is usually a sign that says, “INRI.” What does that mean?
Well, throughout Roman history it was customary to place a sign above the crucified stating their crimes. All four gospel accounts in the Bible testify to Pilate posting a sign above the crucified Jesus that read, “King of the Jews,” or as the gospel of John declares, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
During this time in history, most Roman officials spoke Latin as well as Greek. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews in Latin reads: “IESUS NAZARENUS, REX IUDAEORUM.” The abbreviation of which is INRI. Since lettering in painting is difficult, laborious and often not easy to read if too small, it only makes sense INRI would be used on the sign above the crucified Jesus.