The one-time Catholic patron saint of travellers, Saint Christopher - whose name means "Christ carrier" - is not mentioned in the Bible. While there may have been a 3rd century Greek martyr named Christopher, the story told of him is now generally acknowledged to be a 12th century addendum to the Christian canon.
One day a little child appeared before him and asked to be carried across. To Christopher's surprise, as he forded the river, the child steadily increased in weight until Christopher found his tiny burden so heavy that it was amost impossible to bear.
When he asked the holy babe why he weighed so much, the child replied that he carried the world's sins upon his shoulders. As a reward for his service, Christopher's staff was miraculously transformed into a living tree, and Christopher himself became the Patron Saint of travellers.
Christopher was a widely popular saint, and was especially revered by mariners, ferrymen, and travellers. HIs feast day was July 25th, except in Greece, where it was celebrated on March 9th. In modern times a major center of his cult was in Italy and among Italian-Americans, a fact that did not stop the Vatican from de-canonizing him during a late 20th century purge of the list of saints.
Saint Christopher medals and holy cards are more difficult to find now that his status has been downgraded to that of a mere legend, but they are still being manufactured and many Mexican and Italian Catholics still believe that his image is the best amulet to carry in one's wallet, wear on a necklace while on a journey, or hang from the rear view mirror attachment of one's car. The enamel and silver Saint Christopher medal shown here dates from the 1930s.
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