Gold or silver medallions with St. Christopher's name and image were commonly worn by Italian-Americans as pendants, especially during their voyage to the United States. St. Christopher is a widely popular saint usually depicted as a giant with a child on his shoulder and a staff in one hand.
He is the patron saint of travelers; sailors; ferrymen; motorists and drivers; athletes; archers; bachelors; boatmen; soldiers; bookbinders; fruit dealers; gardeners; market carriers; surfers; mountaineering; and transportation workers. He protects against lightning; pestilence; epilepsy; floods; toothache; and storms. Miniature statues are still displayed in automobiles.
According to the legendary account of his life, St. Christopher was a Canaanite 7.5 feet tall and with a fearsome face. While serving the king of Canaan, he took it into his head to go and serve "the greatest king there was".
He went to the king who was reputed to be the greatest, but one day he saw the king cross himself at the mention of the devil. On thus learning that the king feared the devil, he departed to look for the devil.
He came across a band of marauders, one of whom declared himself to be the devil, so Christopher decided to serve him. But when he saw his new master avoid a wayside cross and found out that the devil feared Christ, he left him and enquired from people where to find Christ.
He met a hermit who instructed him in the Christian faith. Christopher asked him how he could serve Christ. When the hermit suggested fasting and prayer, Christopher replied that he was unable to perform that service. The hermit then suggested that because of his size and strength Christopher could serve Christ by assisting people to cross a dangerous river, where they were perishing in the attempt. The hermit promised that this service would be pleasing to Christ.
After Christopher had performed this service for some time, a little child asked him to take him across the river. During the crossing, the river became swollen and the child seemed as heavy as lead, so much that Christopher could scarcely carry him and found himself in great difficulty.
When he finally reached the other side, he said to the child: "You have put me in the greatest danger. I do not think the whole world could have been as heavy on my shoulders as you were."
The child replied: "You had on your shoulders not only the whole world but Him who made it. I am Christ your king, whom you are serving by this work." The child then vanished.