St Christopher

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All that is known historically of Christopher is that he was a martyr in Asia Minor (3rd century?); his name means ‘Christ-carrier’. According to medieval legend, he was a giant who became Christian and used to serve travellers by carrying them across a river. One day he was almost crushed by the weight of a young boy, for the boy was Jesus, who carries the weight of the world. Many English churches had wall paintings and windows depicting Christopher, usually facing the main entrance, as it was said that anyone who saw an image of him would not die that day. He was also patron of travellers, and protected people from plague and storm. Processional giants were sometimes named after him, he being a rare example of a virtuous giant; one survives, at Salisbury (Wiltshire). St Christopher medals were already known in the Middle Ages; one of Chaucer's pilgrims, the Yeoman, wears a silver one. They are very popular charms in the 20th century, especially among motorists and those travelling by air.

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