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Saint Christopher

Saint Christopher is patron saint of travellers and appears on pendants and charms around many people's necks, hanging from bracelets and in car windscreens.

Christopher got his name by being literally the carrier of Christ. According to Christian legend, he was a giant of a man, given to evil, who became Christian on seeing Satan cringe before the Cross. To serve Christ, he took up the life of a hermit by a river, carrying people across the strong currents. After some time, a young boy asked to be carried across. The river grew fiercer as Christopher waded through, and his load became almost unbearably heavy. On arrival at the far bank, the child revealed himself to be Christ, telling Christopher he had carried the whole world and its Creator.

Medieval churches were colourful places, their walls painted to show scenes from The Bible. A common feature, still to be seen in some churches, was a huge figure of Saint Christopher, carrying Christ across the river, on the wall opposite the main entrance to the nave. Seeing his image gave protection against dying, or dying unshriven, that day, and from tiredness, disease or accident.

Saint Christopher wall painting in Burwell church

Saint Christopher wall painting in the Church of Saint Mary, Burwell, Cambridgeshire

St. Christopher pendant

Saint Christopher pendant EAMMM 2004.32

As a result of his popularity, the image of Saint Christopher carrying the boy Christ appears on charms for protection against dangers met on journeys. This example belonged to the Ickeny Collections' Curator as a boy in Essex in the 1970s.

Material: white metal and enamel
Height: 23 mm
Width: 15 mm
Depth: 5 mm
Date: 1970s CE
Place: worn in Chelmsford, Essex.

Saint Christopher charm with coin

Saint Christopher charm with coin attached EAMMM 2019.22

This charm is more complicated. A moulded base metal charm, made in Italy, is attached by a jump ring to a pierced coin. The latter is a ship half penny from 1965.

Was the owner born in 1965? Or was it made for protection on a journey overseas, perhaps in that year? Maybe to and from Italy?

Coin attached to Saint Christopher charm

Material: base metal, copper
Height: 73 mm
Width: 27 mm
Depth: 17 mm
Date: 1965 or later
Place: charm made in Italy; coin British; collected in Norwich.

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