Celebrated on July 25th
Very little is known about St Christopher, but he is one of the most popular saints in the Eastern and Western churches.
According to legend he was the son of pagan parents, a man of giant stature who became a Christian and wanted to serve God. He lived alone by a ford where many travellers passed. One night he carried a child across the river and as he walked the child became so heavy he could hardly stand up. The child told him: “you have been carrying the whole world. I am Jesus Christ the king you seek.” The name Christopher means ‘Christbearer’.
To prove his statement the child ordered Christopher to fix his staff in the ground. The next morning it had grown into a palm-tree bearing fruit. The miracle converted many. This made the king of the region (possibly Dagnus of Samos in Lycia) very angry and he had Christopher beheaded.
There are many legends about the saint, dating back to the fifth century. The earliest known church dedicated to him was in Chalcedon around 450. The oldest picture of him, in the monastery on the Mount Sinai dates from the time of Justinian (527-65). The Mozarabic Breviary and Missal, ascribed to St Isidore of Seville (d. 636), contains a special office in his honour.
Great veneration was shown to the saint in Venice, along the shores of the Danube, the Rhine, and other rivers where floods or ice-jams caused frequent damage. Coins with his image were cast at Würzburg, in Würtemberg, and in Bohemia.
Statues of St Christopher were placed at the entrances of churches and homes, and frequently at bridges. These statues and his pictures often bore the inscription: “Whoever shall behold the image of St Christopher shall not faint or fall on that day.”
The saint, who is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, is patron of Baden, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, and several other cities, as well as bookbinders, gardeners and mariners. He is invoked against lightning, storms, epilepsy and pestilence. But he is best know as the patron saint of travellers.