Every July 10, Saint Christopher of Licia, a prominent figure in the history of Christianity in the first centuries, is remembered; and although the difficulties in knowing him and understanding his historical role are real, it is known with some certainty that he lived during the rule of Decius, the third Roman emperor, around the year 250.
A famous legend, well known in the West and that could have been inspired both by true stories of Christian martyrs and by some character from Greek mythology, tells how Reprobus, whom tradition would baptize as “Christopher”, carried a child on his shoulders unknown through a mighty river. The boy had asked him for help to cross the waters since the current was very strong.
Cristobal was always close to the river since he usually helped anyone who wanted to cross it. This was a service he performed at the suggestion of a hermit whom he had asked how he could serve Christ, his Lord.
It was impossible for the vast majority of travelers to overcome the flow, while it was easier for Cristóbal to cross than the rest, given his strength and height – it is said that he was more than two meters tall. So Cristóbal spent his time going, over and over again, from one side to the other.
Once he left the boy on the opposite shore, before disappearing, he revealed to him that it was Christ, whom he was trying to help, helping others.
By considering this history, one can understand why tradition baptized this saint as “Christopher”. The name comes from the Greek word “Christophoros”, which means “bearer of Christ”, or “he who carries Christ”. For this reason, since the fourth century, Saint Christopher has been generally represented as a man of great height and strength, with the child Jesus on his shoulders, while he crosses the waters of a river leaning on a cane.
In the late Middle Ages, the belief was popularized that it was enough to look at the image of the saint and entrust oneself to him to be free from all danger during a journey; and this is how San Cristóbal became the patron saint of pilgrims, travellers, navigators, motorists and carriers in general.
It is said that Saint Christopher probably served as a soldier for the Roman Empire in Canaan, and that once he left the military, he began looking for the “most powerful king” to serve him. It is, therefore, plausible to think that in this search he may have heard of Christ. It is also said that after having had that personal encounter with God made a child, he moved to Lycia to bear witness to him and console the Christians who were persecuted in that region.
Tradition also indicates that after having met God as a child, Saint Christopher was baptized in Antioch and went to console the persecuted Christians of Lycia and Samos. Precisely, in one of his stays in Lycia, he would have been taken prisoner by King Dagon, who, under orders from Emperor Decius, had him tortured. Refusing to abdicate his faith despite being tortured, he was ordered to have his throat cut. According to a story attributed to a certain Walter of Speyer, the Syrian nation and Dagon himself converted to Christ thanks to this saint.
San Cristóbal in the memory of the peoples
Saint Christopher is a very popular character both in the East and in the West. And his devotion has transcended the passing of the centuries. It is to such an extent that the art, customs and faith of those who travel invoke it here and there. Even poets considered contemporary such as Federico García Lorca and Antonio Machado have sung it with inspired verses. His image, whether sculpted or painted, almost always colossal and gigantic, decorates many cathedrals around the world, as is the case of the Cathedral of Toledo in Spain.
If you want to know more about San Cristóbal, we recommend this article from the Catholic Encyclopedia: https://ec.aciprensa.com/wiki/San_Cristóbal.
More information about this saint in the following link: