Who Is the Patron Saint of Travelers? All About Saint Christopher

Wondering who is the patron saint of travelers? In the Roman Catholic tradition, it is none other than Saint Christopher, whose name means “Christ-bearer.” This saint is one of the most popular and most prayed to in the world, outside of the Virgin Mary and a few others, and medallions, figurines, and pictures with his image are frequently thought to bring safety to travelers.

Read on to learn more about Saint Christopher, including the legend, the history, and the modern practices associated with him!

Saint Christopher: Learning the Legend

Patron Saint of Travelers

There are many legends of Saint Christopher, and alas, we cannot tell them all here. But here is the “main” legend that everyone should know:

A large, tall individual not (yet) named Christopher, lived in the Roman Middle East around A.D. 250 or 300. Some even say this man was a giant, but everyone agrees he was bigger and stronger than the average ancient.

This large man, however, had a humble spirit and wanted to serve whomever he found to be “the greatest king.” First, he tried the “local monarch,” but when he learned that king had a fear of the Devil, he decided that the Devil must be greater and went off to serve him instead. For a time, he therefore moved with a band of thieves whose leader went by the name “Devil,” but when that man showed fear at the sight of a cross, he sought out a man of the cross, a hermit.

The hermit told his inquirer he should learn to fast and pray, but this large man had an equally large appetite and didn’t think he could manage it. So, the hermit suggested he instead serve Christ by carrying smaller, weaker travelers across a raging river where many had perished in time past. So he took up the task suggested and carried many a poor traveler to safety on the other side. He became a kind of “human ferry boat,” you might say.

Finally, a small child rode on the humble giant’s back one day to the other side of the river. Our hero told the child, on the other shore, that he felt him as heavy as the whole world. The child replied he was the maker of the world, that the world was also on the man’s back with him, and that he was the Christ. Then, he vanished into thin air.

What About the “Real” Saint Christopher?

Most historians will tell you that, if Saint Christopher ever lived at all, he lived and died around A.D. 250 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius. However, others say it was during the reign of Dacian, whose similar-sounding name seems to have caused the confusion.

The original name of the man seems to have been “Repbrobus,” and many also identify him with Saint Menas, who is the patron saint of travelers in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. But one thing we can be sure of: he was not Christopher Columbus, as some mistakenly suppose “Saint Christopher Patron Saint of Travelers” refers to, due to the name and the famous traveling expedition Mr. Columbus is well known for.

In both the Western and Eastern traditions, the patron saint of travelers is said to have been a part of the same Roman cohort stationed in North Africa, between Egypt and Libya. Both legends also are eerily similar in regard to the details of our saint’s martyrdom, which is said to have been by beheading. And realize that beheading was a “friendlier” means of execution in Roman times, which would likely be reserved for a Roman soldier, which legend says Christopher originally was.

And finally, realize that Saint Menas is also sometimes referred to as “Christopher,” meaning, again, “Christ-bearer.” It’s tempting to connect the historical dots and pronounce that Means and Christopher are one and the same man. But, we probably can’t quite do that. Instead, we’ll just say that our dots look a lot more convincing that the constellation of The Great Bear looks like a bear.

Modern Practices Associated With Saint Christopher

Pendant with the Patron Saint of Travelers

The veneration of Saint Christopher began late. His existence was acknowledged early enough, and a few churches and monasteries here and there were named after him as early as the 7th Century A.D. But it wasn’t until late Medieval times that Saint Christopher’s popularity began to blossom.

Today, the patron saint of travelers has his official feast day on 25 July every year. And he is also recognized as the patron saint of children, bachelors, surfing, gardeners, epilepsy, and toothaches.

Plus, he is the patron saint of the island-nation of Saint Kitts and of the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. And that’s not even the full list of all he is patron saint of aside from his “main duties” as patron saint of travelers!

Medallions bearing the image and name of Saint Christopher are often worn around the neck of travelers, for the sake of demonstrating their devotion to him and of requesting his assistance. Other times, small statuettes of Saint Christopher may be kept in one’s automobile for added protection.

The French are even used to saying, “Look at Saint Christopher and go safely on your way.” And the Spanish put it: “If in Saint Christopher you confide, in an accident you will not die.” Well, actually, they don’t say those things because they speak French and Spanish words, but you get what I mean.

Summing It All Up

In sum, we have seen that Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers, is (according to legend) a giant of a man who, in comport with the meaning of his name, once carried the Christ child across a dangerous river crossing. In history, he seems suspiciously similar to one Saint Menas. And in Roman Catholic devotion, he is often the most widely known and revered saint outside of the Virgin Mary. Travelers often wear pendants with his image round their necks or in their cars, and pray to him for protection whenever they travel.

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