The Dog-Headed St. Christopher
That’s right boys and girls, today we’re taking a peek at the world of Christianity! I’ll be covering St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, due to the fact that in medieval depictions of him, he usually has the head of a dog.
According to the ancient legends, Christopher was one of a dog-headed race that is sometimes called the Marmaritae (supposedly from a country known as Marmarica somewhere in North Africa). It’s said that when he was young, Christopher was a cannibal and spoke only in the harsh guttural language of the dog-headed race.
After hearing the words of a Christian prophet who was preaching on the borders of his homeland, Christopher began to rethink his own life. While he was thinking an angel appeared and touched his mouth, allowing him to speak in languages that all men could understand. After this, Christopher left his home and traveled to Greece to preach the Christian Gospel, becoming quite the missionary in many lands. Yet in spite of this, he still remained a dog-headed man and the Church was super suspicious of him.
The story of Christopher as a dog-head lasted long into the medieval period, especially in Ireland. The revered Leabar Brac (the Speckled Book) contains an eighth century Irish calendar of saints, clearly stating that Christopher was a member of a dog-headed race, he ate human flesh, and only knew the dog-headed language when he first meditated on God. A writer known as Walter of Speyer has written two biographies on the saint, which also say that Christopher came from a race of dog-headed creatures.
Christopher is still considered a problematic saint with Pagan connections. In other versions of the story, he is completely human, but a giant – a member of an ancient race that once walked the earth. In this form he bears the young Christ upon his shoulders across the raging water. Then you have others who don’t even consider him a saint at all, in spite of his name being mentioned many times in the English Middle Ages. Even though many believe in St. Christopher, he is not officially recognized by the Vatican.