Re: Dogs and Saints
- Effingham replied to me:
>> It turns out that St. Christopher--*the* St. Christopher, known asThat's interesting...the site I referenced gave a different explanation which they go to some length to back up.
>> patron of travellers--is the one who is described and depicted at
>> times as having a dog's head. A really interesting (to me)
>> explanation of the historical roots of St. Christopher's story can be
>> found at
>> And there's a picture of him with a dog's head and everything.
>Well, speaking as an Orthodox Christian, and as an iconographer, I can >shed some light on this.
>According to the hagiography, St. Christopher was said to have been
>extremely handsome. A major bit of beefcake, apparently. So much so that
>women were constantly throwing themselves on him. He found his good looks >to be a hindrance to his wish for a pious life devoid of temptations, so
>he prayed to have his good looks taken from him... and he awoke with the
>face of a dog.
>Sad to say, some over-enthusiastic (and too literal) artists and readers
>took it to be literally the face of a dog, rather than, say, Ernest
>Borgnine, and so were born icons of him with the face of a dog, and this >was then back-explained that he came from a tribe of dog-faced people.
>Conventional iconography today remedies this, and just paints him as a
>normal guy, but there are many extant ancient samples of him with a dog->face (and several, in fact, with a horse's face).
According to his legend, St. Christopher came from the fringes of civilization, a land of "cannibals and dog-headed peoples." Latin translators rendered the Greek for "dog-headed" as "dog-like" (canineus), and this was later corrupted to "Canaanite" (cananeus). Thus, in the West, the legend grew up that Christopher was from Palestine.
The Web page goes through evidence showing that many elements of the earliest St. Christopher story are supported by other evidence, and that there probably was a soldier from the edge of the Sahara who became a Christian, took the name Christopher, and was martyred.