As the patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher’s patronage ranges far and wide. From explorers to mariners, drivers to surfers, St. Christopher is one of the most popular heroes of the Faith.
He is a saint, indeed listed as a martyr. He may have also been named Reprobus. He apparently died under the Roman Emperor Decius, in 251 AD. Most Catholics refer to him as Saint Christopher anyway, and his medals and the popular devotions to him are among the most common in Catholic piety.
THE LEGEND OF ST. CHRISTOPHER
Other than his listing as a martyr, there are not a lot of primary sources that tell us much about him, but there are plenty of stories that have been passed down over generations and have made their way to a place of prominence in the traditions and history of the Catholic Church.
The most well-known and beloved story of St. Christopher is that he was a man of great physical stature and size (by some accounts, he was a giant) who devoted himself to Jesus by using his strength to help travelers cross a dangerous river. St. Christopher would carry travelers across an impassable river and deliver them safely on the other side.
One day, a child asked to be carried across the raging river. St. Christopher agreed and set out across the river carrying the child on his shoulders. As he began to cross the river, the child got heavier and heavier with each step and it became increasingly difficult to bear the overwhelming weight and navigate the tumultuous river. It was only with immense effort that St. Christopher finally reached the other side and safely delivered the child.
St. Christopher said that it seemed the whole world couldn’t have been as heavy on his shoulders as the child. The child then revealed himself as the Christ Child and told St. Christopher that he had in fact carried the whole weight of the world on his shoulders and Him who created it.
In Greek, Christopher translates to “Christ-bearer” and may refer to the legend of the giant carrying the Christ Child across the river.
THE MEANING OF ST. CHRISTOPHER MEDALS
Because St. Christopher symbolizes safe travel, the saint has remained popular in modern times in the form of St. Christopher medals. St. Christopher medals the most popular display is worn on a necklace. St. Christopher medals always feature a depiction of the St. Christopher legend. The circular medal portrays a large bearded man, typically with a staff, carrying a young child across a river. The outer edge surrounding the scene says “St. Christopher Protect Us” or “St. Christopher Be My Guide.”
Followers of the Catholic faith wear St. Christopher medals to show their devotion to the saint and for protection during travels. But you don’t have to be Catholic to take part in this tradition! The necklaces have come to represent adventure and overcoming obstacles, and are worn as a talisman for safety.
Many types of people and backgrounds wear St. Christopher necklaces as a symbol of safe travel and protection. And since St. Christopher saved travelers from a watery death, mariners wore Saint Christopher medals for protection and safe passage at sea.
In the same vein, St. Christopher necklaces are popular with explorers, drivers, and have become a staple for another group of people who love spending time in the ocean -- surfers.
Here are a few other new traditions with St. Christopher's:
- Wear for good luck
- Wear for a little extra protection surfing or in the water
- Exchange with a fellow traveler
- Exchange with your best friends
- Pass down from generation to generation
- Pass along to someone you meet and really connect with
- Pass on to a stranger
- Hang from your rear view mirror
- Stash in nature for someone else to find!
Whether you keep a St. Christopher in your car or it’s your ever-present travel companion, St. Christopher necklaces are sure to bring the good vibes with you wherever you go!