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Rome challenged on St Christopher demotion

An Irish academic has uncovered compelling new evidence that challenges the Vatican's controversial downgrading of St Christopher from his once sanctified status.

The Irish Independent reports that though still revered by travellers, church reforms removed St Christopher from the Universal Calendar in 1969. It said that the Vatican had been troubled by the fact that many stories of his life may have been merely "legendary" and his beatification was the result of a number of different "legends" being cobbled together.

But now, Professor of Ancient Classics at University College Cork David Woods believes that new information based on an examination of ancient texts by scholars has strengthened the case for St Christopher.

The professor suggests that the saint we know as St Christopher was in fact St Menas, an early Egyptian martyr.

Professor Woods has studied the contents of 3rd- and 4th-century Greek and Latin texts as well as manuscripts dating from the 14th century written in Ethiopic. These manuscripts were not available to the theologians who booted St Christopher into the second rank of saints after Vatican II, according to Professor Woods.

"The texts strongly suggest St Christopher was a member of the north African tribe of the Marmaritae," he told the Independent.

Professor Woods says that the man who became known as St Christopher - which in both Greek and Latin literally means "Bearer of Christ" was captured by Roman forces during the Emperor Diocletian's campaign against his tribe in about AD 302.

In a complex and fascinating examination of the Origins of the Cult of St Christopher he points out that in early Byzantine representations, St Christopher is depicted with the head of a dog.

This was based on a literal but false interpretation of the Greco/Roman view that those who lived on the edge of their world including the Marmaritae were wild or "dog headed".

As he argues strongly that St Christopher was a real person, he observes: "One cannot help but see divine providence at work in the fact that St Christopher developed into the patron saint of travellers in the West.

Rome challenged on St Christopher view (Sunday Independent 15/8/04)

Cult of St Christopher (The Military Martyrs/University College Cork - Professor Woods' website)
In Spite of It All, St. Christopher Hangs In There (Los Angeles Times 31/7/04)
Patron Saints Index - St Christopher (

16 Aug 2004