by Catherine Fournier
Name Meaning: Christ-bearer
Memorial: 25 July
Patron of: Rab Croatia,
archers, automobile drivers, automobilists, boatmen, cab drivers, mariners, motorists, sailors, taxi drivers, transportation, transportation workers, travellers, watermen.
fullers, market carriers, porters, bachelors,fruit dealers,
storms, hailstorms, floods, sudden death, holy death, toothache,
Symbol: giant, torrent, tree, man with Christ on his shoulders, in Eastern icons as a dog-headed man
The popular and best known history of Saint Christopher, is as the patron saint of travellers. According to these stories, Christopher's original name was Offero. Born in Canaan, he was a powerfully built man who wandered the world in search of novelty and adventure.
After many such adventures, he met a hermit who instructed him in the Truth of God. Christopher was baptized and decided to spend his life in the service of Christ by serving others. He searched for a way to help others that would use his great strength. The legend goes on to explain that since the hermit lived beside a dangerous stream that frequently drowned those trying to cross it, Christopher decided to be a porter and guide across the stream.
One day he carried a small child across the stream. The child's weight nearly crushed him. When they arrived on the other side, the child revealed himself as Christ, and explained he was so heavy because he bore the weight of the world. Some versions of the legend say the Christ-Child Himself baptized Offero with water from the stream. The saint then took a new name ;Christopher meaning Christ-bearer. Christopher's service at the stream led to his patronage of things related to travel and travellers, people who carry things, etc.
The real story is more interesting (and believable. )
St. Christopher was born in north Africa. Captured by Roman forces during the emperor Diocletian's campaign against the Marmaritae in late 301 and early 302, he was transported for service in a Roman garrison in Syria. There he met, was converted and baptised by the refugee bishop Peter of Alexandria. And according to the earliest Greek (BHG 309-11) and Latin (BHL 1764) accounts he was martyred for his faith six years later on 9 July 308 at Antioch in Syria.
Other reports indicate that Christopher was interested in encouraging missionary activity, based his activities in Antioch and may be the figure also known as bishop Theophilus the Indian, present at Antioch c.351-54, or one of his circle. This contradicts the earlier martyrdom dates but can be confirmed by examining the dates of Syrian campaigns and other corroborating evidence.
Adapted from The Origin of the Cult of St. Christopher at Military Martyrs
More information on this saint can be found at:
- Open Directory Project links to sites devoted to or with information about Saint Christopher
- Military Martyrs
Prayer to Saint Christopher
Dear Saint, you have inherited a beautiful name - Christ bearer - as a result of a wonderful legend that while carrying people across a raging stream you also carried the Child Jesus. Teach us to be true Christ bearers to those who do not know him. Protect all drivers who often transports those who bear Christ within them. Amen.
The St Christopher woodcut at the top of this page is from the John Rylands Library, Manchester, UK. It was executed in southern Germany or German Switzerland in 1423. This hand-coloured block-print is the earliest dated example of European printing, and was preserved as an endpaper in a manuscript dated 1417 from Bohemia, the Laus Virginis. A colouring page version is available in Fridge Art.