1. Fr. Michael Morris, O.P.

    Thank you for your excellent article on Saint Christopher. While the saint’s feast is unfortunately no longer celebrated by the universal Church on its liturgical calendar, he has not been “suppressed” as a saint. He has fallen off the calendar like other long venerated figures (Valentine, Barbara, Margaret of Antioch, etc.) to make way for more modern saints. Perhaps one day he will be reinstated as was the case with Catherine of Alexandria. Such saints have made a huge impact on the history of Christian iconography. May they continue to do so!

  2. As usual, Jonathan, you’ve managed to take a obscure bit of iconography and turned it into an astonishingly interesting history of the world. Well done!

  3. Another example of human beings from distant places being shown with animal heads is found in the lower tier of the tympanum of the Basilica at Vezelay: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/3688853217.

    The tympanum of the central portal leading from the narthex to the nave is dominated by the figure of Christ in majesty within a mandorla that reveals him to be the second person of the Holy Trinity. Christ is sitting on a throne, knees turned to the right. He has a halo with a cross on it, and wears a long, graceful garment with many folds. His feet are bare, emphasizing his having become incarnate – God become man, leaving his footprints on the earth. His arms are outstretched beyond the edges of the mandorla. Rays of divine light connect him to the twelve smaller figures – the apostles – who are ranged on either side. The theme is the commissioning of the apostles to bring the good news of the Gospel to all people. To suggest the variety of peoples to whom the Gospel will be brought are the smaller figures on the long tier just over the doors – from pygmies, who need a ladder to climb onto a horse, to people with immense ears or strange heads.

  4. Thank you for your article. I love that the Orthodox Arts Journal focuses on the beauty of Christianity. However, I do have one question concerning this article’s conclusion. It ends after taking us brilliantly through the history of the icon by stating, “Indeed, the story of St-Christopher is in fact an image of the Church itself, of the relationship of Christ to his Body, our own heart to our senses, our own logos to its shell.” Despite this, Jonathan Pageau still believes, “St-Christopher remains an embarrassing trace of mistaken belief held in the past and should, for that reason alone, be sidetracked.” So, my question is, isn’t this a slippery slop? It seems that we could, if we wanted, set aside almost all symbolism with Christianity (whether it be found in the theatrics of liturgy, the images of art, or the sounds of music) with the excuse that we are all too savvy in this technological age. Instead of sidetracking Christian symbolism, shouldn’t the answer be education and learning how symbols point to something beyond themselves?

    1. Your comment is of course exactly right on target, and the vision you propose is what I have been trying to do in my articles. I have deliberately chosen the most difficult subjects, like St-Christopher, because they are a common target of modernists. If you look again at the end of the article, you will see that the question posed, whether we should sidetrack St-Christopher because of the savvy scientific age we live in, is answered by a promise to take the reader on an encounter with St-Christopher in my next article. Hopefully I will be able to show that despite the arrogance of rationality, there are still monsters at the edge of the world…

      1. Thank you for your response. I was wondering if the next article would, in some way, answer my question, and it seems it will. I look forward to reading it. Please keep me in your prayers.

  5. Matthieu

    A side note on the subject of the dog. It is also relevant to mention that the dog is truly a symbol of periphery and not just one of “outsider”. Here, I mean periphery in the sense of in-between, as you have mentioned, and not merely as alien. First of all, there is the simple fact that the dog is a domesticated animal, and so, it stands in a “gray zone” between the wild beasts and humanity. The dog is not a wild beast, but at the frontier. Also there is the fact that humans train dogs first and foremost as guard-dogs (even as shepherds) and as hunters. These two functions truly give the dog a role that is in-between civilisation and the wilderness.
    These things are indeed obvious, but I mention them anyway because such simple things can easily be overlooked, and yet they reveal much about the meaning of symbols.

    1. As usual, you are quite right about this. I have been emphasizing distance, but the dog shows the closeness of the limit, an animality which is potentiality a tool of humanity, so can it be ridden upon by those that have the capacity.

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