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Saint Christopher
St. Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1485)
Born Canaan (Western accounts) or Marmarica (Eastern accounts)
Died c. 251, Asia Minor
Venerated in Anglicanism
Eastern Orthodoxy
Oriental Orthodoxy
Roman Catholicism
Feast 25 July (West), 9 May (East)
Attributes tree, branch, as a giant or ogre, carrying Jesus, spear, shield, as a dog-headed man
Patronage bachelors, transportation (drivers, sailors, etc.), travelling (especially for long journeys), storms, Brunswick, Saint Christopher's Island (Saint Kitts), Island Rab, Vilnius, epilepsy, gardeners, holy death, toothache

Saint Christopher (Greek: Άγιος Χριστόφορος) is a saint venerated by Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, listed as a martyr killed in the reign of the 3rd century Roman emperor Decius (reigned 249–251).

The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates Saint Christopher on May 9. The Tridentine Calendar allowed a commemoration of Saint Christopher on 25 July only in private Masses. This restriction was lifted later (see General Roman Calendar as in 1954). While the Roman Catholic Church still approves devotion to him, listing him in the Roman Martyrology among the saints venerated on 25 July,[1] it removed his feast day from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints in 1969. At that time the church declared that this commemoration was not of Roman tradition, in view of the relatively late date (about 1550) and limited manner in which it was accepted into the Roman calendar.[2]

Saint Christopher is sometimes represented with the head of a dog.

The Catholic Church suggests that almost nothing historical is known about the life and death of St. Christopher,[3] however several legends are attributed to him. The most popular variations originate from The Golden Legend, a thirteenth-century compilation of stories.


Legend of St. Christopher

Historical examination of the legends suggests Reprobus (Christopher) lived during the Christian persecutions of either the Roman emperor Decius or Diocletian, and that he was captured and martyred by the governor of Antioch.[4] Historian David Woods has proposed that Christopher's remains were possibly taken to Alexandria by Peter of Attalia where he may have become identified with the Egyptian martyr Saint Menas.[4]

St Christopher, woodcut, 1423

Christopher was a Canaanite 12 cubits (18 ft) tall and with a fearsome face. While serving the king of Canaan, he took it into his head to go and serve the greatest king there was. He went to the king who was reputed to be the greatest, but one day he saw the king cross himself at the mention of the devil. On thus learning that the king feared the devil, he departed to look for the devil. He came across a band of marauders, one of whom declared himself to be the devil, so Christopher decided to serve him. But when he saw his new master avoid a wayside cross and found out that the devil feared Christ, he left him and enquired from people where to find Christ. He met a hermit who instructed him in the Christian faith. Christopher asked him how he could serve Christ. When the hermit suggested fasting and prayer, Christopher replied that he was unable to perform that service. The hermit then suggested that because of his size and strength Christopher could serve Christ by assisting people to cross a dangerous river, where they were perishing in the attempt. The hermit promised that this service would be pleasing to Christ.[citation needed]

After Christopher had performed this service for some time, a little child asked him to take him across the river. During the crossing, the river became swollen and the child seemed as heavy as lead, so much that Christopher could scarcely carry him and found himself in great difficulty. When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: "You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were." The child replied: "You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work." The child then vanished.[citation needed]

Christopher later visited the city of Lycia and there comforted the Christians who were being martyred. Brought before the local king, he refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. The king tried to win him by riches and by sending two beautiful women to tempt him. Christopher converted the women to Christianity, as he had already converted thousands in the city. The king ordered him to be killed. Various attempts failed, but finally Christopher was decapitated.[citation needed]

Veneration and patronage

Eastern Orthodox Liturgy

The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates Christopher of Lycea with a Feast Day on May 9. The liturgical reading and hymns refer to his imprisonment by Decius who tempts Christopher with harlots before ordering his beheading.[5] The Kontakion in the Fourth Tone (hymn) reads:

"Thou who wast terrifying both in strength and in countenance, for thy Creator's sake thou didst surrender thyself willingly to them that sought thee; for thou didst persuade both them and the women that sought to arouse in thee the fire of lust, and they followed thee in the path of martyrdom. And in torments thou didst prove to be courageous. Wherefore, we have gained thee as our great protector, O great Christopher."[6]

An image of Saint Christopher, such as is worn or is placed in a vehicle, for protection on journeys

Relics and Medals

After having been held in Constantinople, the relics and the head of the saint were moved to the island of Rab in Croatia. When Normans tried to invade the islands and besieged the city, its inhabitants placed the saint's relics on the city walls. Miraculously, the winds changed and the bows and ships were blown away from the city. One of the city's largest medieval squares is named after the saint.[citation needed]

Christopher is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and the patron saint of travelers. Medallions with his name and image are worn to show devotion to a certain saint and ask for that saint's prayers. They are frequently displayed in automobiles. In French a widespread phrase for such medals is "Regarde St Christophe et va-t-en rassuré" ("Look at St Christopher and go on reassured"); Saint Christopher medals and holy cards in Spanish have the phrase "Si en San Cristóbal confías, de accidente no morirás" ("If you trust St. Christopher, you won't die in an accident"). In Austria an annual collection for providing vehicles for the use of missionaries is taken up on a Sunday close to the feast of Saint Christopher, asking people to contribute a very small sum of money for every kilometre that they have traveled safely during the year.[citation needed]

General patronage

Christopher has always been a widely popular saint, being especially revered by athletes, mariners, ferrymen, and travelers.[7] He is revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He holds patronage of things related to travel and travelers: against lightning; against pestilence; archers; bachelors; boatmen; bookbinders; epilepsy; floods; fruit dealers; fullers; gardeners; for a holy death; mariners; market carriers; motorists and drivers; sailors; storms; surfers[8]; toothache; and transportation workers.

Patronage of places

Christopher is the patron saint of the many places, including: Baden, Germany[7]; Barga, Italy; Brunswick, Germany[7]; Mecklenburg, Germany[7]; Rab, Croatia; Roermond, The Netherlands; Saint Christopher's Island (Saint Kitts); Toses in Catalonia, Spain; Mondim de Basto, Portugal; Agrinion, Greece; Vilnius, Lithuania; Havana, Cuba; and Paete, Laguna, Philippines.

References in popular culture

See Saint Christopher in popular culture


  1. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  2. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 131
  3. ^ "FAQ's - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online". Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  4. ^ a b David Woods, "St. Christopher, Bishop Peter of Attalia, and the Cohors Marmaritarum: A Fresh Examination", Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Jun., 1994), p.170
  5. ^ "Christopher the Martyr of Lycea", Saints, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2009
  6. ^ Holy Transfiguration Monastery, (translation), "Kontakion in the Fourth Tone", Saints, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2009
  7. ^ a b c d Mershman, F. (1908). St. Christopher. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 16, 2008
  8. ^ Dioces of Orange hosts First Annual Blessing of the Waves in Surf City Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, September 15, 2008

External links

  • Saint Christopher Website with information and references about St. Christopher.
  • "The Life of Saint Christopher", The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints, Temple Classics, 1931 (Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Translated by William Caxton) at the Fordham University Medieval Sourcebook

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SAINT CHRISTOPHER (Christophorus, Christoferus), a saint honoured in the Roman Catholic (25th of July) and Orthodox Eastern (9th of May) Churches, the patron of ferrymen.

Nothing that is authentic is known about him. He appears to have been originally a pagan and to have been born in Syria. He was baptized by Babylas, bishop of Antioch; preached with much success in Lycia; and was martyred about A.D. 250 during the persecution under the emperor Decius. (Or Dagnus - perhaps to be identified with Maximinus Daza, joint emperor (with Galerius) in the East 305-311, and sole emperor 311-313.) Round this small nucleus of possibility, however, a vast mass of legendary matter gradually collected.

All accounts agree that he was of great stature and singularly handsome, and that this helped him not a little in his evangelistic work. But according to a story reproduced in the New Uniat Anthology of Arcudius, and mentioned in Basil's Monologue, Christopher was originally a hideous man-eating ogre, with a dog's face, and only received his human semblance, with his Christian name, at baptism. Most of his astounding miracles are of the ordinary type. He thrusts his staff into the ground; whereupon it sprouts into a date palm, and thousands are converted. Courtesans sent to seduce him are turned by his mere aspect into Christians and martyrs. The Roman governor is confounded by his insensibility to the most refined and ingenious tortures. He is roasted over a slow fire and basted with boiling oil, but tells his tormentors that by the grace of Jesus Christ he feels nothing. When at last, in despair, they cut off his head, he had converted 48,000 people.

The more conspicuous of these legends are included in the Mozarabic Breviary and Missal, and are given in the thirty-third sermon of Peter Damien, but the best-known story is that which is given in the Golden Legend of Jacopus de Voragine. According to this, Christopher - or rather Reprobus, as he was then called - was a giant of vast stature who was in search of a man stronger than himself, whom he might serve. He left the service of the king of Canaan because the king feared the devil, and that of the devil because the devil feared the Cross. He was converted by a hermit; but as he had neither the gift of fasting nor that of prayer, he decided to devote himself to a work of charity and set himself to carry wayfarers over a bridgeless river. One day a little child asked to be taken across, and Christopher took him on his shoulder. When half way over the stream he staggered under what seemed to him a crushing weight, but he reached the other side and then upbraided the child for placing him in. peril. "Had I borne the whole world on my back," he said, "it could not have weighed heavier than thou!" "Marvel not!" the child replied, "for thou hast borne upon thy back the world and him who created it!" It was this story that gave Christopher his immense popularity throughout Western Christendom.

See Bolland. Acta Sanct. vi. 146; Guenebault, Dict. iconographique des attributs des figures et des legendes des saints (Paris., 1850); Smith and Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography (London, 1877, &c., 4 vols.); A. Sinemus, Die Legende vom h. Christophorus (Hanover, 1868); and other literature cited in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyk.. iv. 60.

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