One of the latest accounts of a race of giants that occupied Europe comes from the middle ages and involves a surprising figure: Saint Christopher. While modern stories of St. Christopher simply make him out as an ordinary man, or perhaps a somewhat homely man, those who actually saw him had a different story. According to his peers, he was a giant, belonging to a tribe of dog-headed, cannibalistic giants. Jacques de Voragine in The Golden Legend wrote of St. Christopher:”He was of gigantic stature, had a terrifying mien, was twelve coudees tall.
21. A coudee is an antique measurement equal to or larger than the English linear measurement of a foot. According to this ancient account, St. Christopher stood from 12 to 18 feet tall (a fact that has become hidden in or even erased from church history).
22. While Western icons don’t picture St. Christopher as contemporary accounts described him, those of the Eastern churches do. Often the suggestion is seen in historic accounts that St. Christopher was the product of a tryst between a human being and an Anubis (a demon-like creature based on the Greek Anoubis, which came from the Egyptians jackal-headed god who was believed to lead the dead to judgment)
The legend of Saint Christopher quite clearly states that he was a giant. Not just a tall man, but a genuine giant. As the story goes, it was his size that enabled him to easily transport the Christ child across a river and thereby secured his place as patron saint of travelers – that is, until the Church decided that the evidence for Christopher’s very existence was entirely legendary and decanonized him. Nonetheless, Christopher remains a popular though unofficial saint, and his image is fixed in our cultural psyche.
Tradition relates that Saint Christopher came from a country of cannibals and that his face was doglike. “He was of gigantic stature, had a terrifying mien, was twelve coudees tall.â€ – Jacques de Voragine, in The Golden Legend [A coudee is slightly larger than an English foot. So as per this ancient account, St. Christopher stood from 12 to 18 feet tall, a facet of the Christopher Legend forgotten or erased from church history.
The dog-headed Christopher myth originates in the reign of the Emperor Diocletian [c 243-316 CE] A man named Reprobus [“Wicked” in Latin] was captured in battle against tribes in North Africa, and was assigned to the “numerus Marmaritarum” or “Unit of the Marmaritae”. He was reported to be of tremendous size, with a dogs head instead of a human one, by some accounts this was characteristic of the Marmaritae people, but highly unlikely.
Early translations did not always render an accurate translation of the Greek term kunokephalos (“dog-headed” ), and at times translated it as canineus (“dog-like”). This progressively morphed to read “Canaanite” (Cananeus) since it seemed apparent that a Saint could not really have been “dog-like”.
So Christopher the “Canaanite” (Cananeus) was actually Christopher the Canineus (“dog-like”) . Some believe that the description of Christopher as hailing from the land of the dog-headed derives from the Egyptian cult of the jackal-headed god Anubis. Others believe that the civilized intellectuals of the Greco-Roman world were accustomed to describing those who lived on the outskirts of civilization as cannibals and dog-headed savages. So that when the original author of the account of St. Christopher described his origin from the land of cannibals and dog-headed peoples he was merely signifying that he came from the edge of the civilized world, a cultural metaphor .
It has been speculated that St. Christopher could be the same man known as the Coptic Saint Menas for whom a 4th century burial site is known . Doubts about the historical existence of Christopher, long the patron saint of travelers, prompted the Catholic Church to remove his name from the calendar of saints in 1969.