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“Behold Saint Christopher and go thy way in safety.”

24 July 2010
 The legend goes that Christopher was a Canaanite who lived in the 3rd century. He was a large man, of fearsome appearance. At first he is said to have served the devil, but when he discovered that the devil was afraid of Christ and his Cross, Christopher decided to serve Christ instead. A nearby hermit instructed Christopher in the Christian faith, and assigned to him a place near a river: Christopher’s job was to help travelers cross it safely.

All went well, and Christopher helped lots of people on their way until one day a child came along, and asked to be carried across. Christopher put him on his back and set off, but was soon staggering under the astonishing weight of this child. The child then told him that he was in fact Jesus Christ, and that he carried the weight of the whole world. The Christ- child then told Christopher to plant his staff in the ground: the next day it bore flowers and dates – confirmation that the child was indeed who he claimed to be.

After some time more of helping travelers cross the river, Christopher went to the city of Lycia, where he preached the gospel with such success that the Roman emperor (perhaps Decius) had him arrested and imprisoned – especially when Christopher refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Two women sent into his cell to seduce him came out converted Christians instead. So Christopher was beaten, shot with arrows and finally beheaded.

Christopher has been well loved of the English down the centuries. Many wall-paintings of him have been placed on the north wall of churches, opposite the porch, so that he would be seen by all who entered. There was good reason for this: as patron saint of travelers, it was believed that anyone who saw an image of St Christopher would not die that day. As the ancient saying goes: ‘Behold St Christopher and go thy way in safety’. As a kind of daily insurance policy against death – this was so good that, in due course, St Christopher became the patron saint of motorists.

In modern times, with the increase in air and motorway travel, Christopher has remained popular. There is even a church in the Javel area of Paris, where Citroen cars are made that is dedicated to St Christopher. When in 1969 Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church reduced his feast day, there was a sharp protest in several countries, led in Italy by a number of popular film stars. If you ever travel in a taxi on the Continent, look out for a little St Christopher hanging from the rear view mirror beside the driver. Now you know why it is there!

The feast of Saint Christopher is celebrated on July 25th.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 28 July 2010 8:32 pm

    Very interesting article, thanks. Keep up the good work.

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