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Saint Christopher’s status within today’s Catholic Church doesn’t matter to me when I write historical fiction. I am much more interested in his status 1,200 years ago, the time my characters lived.

The questions for me are not whether he was universal or a local cult or whether there is evidence that he existed (by today’s standards). What I need to know is: Did Christians in eighth century Europe believe in him? What version of his story might they have heard? When they saw his image, what went through their minds? When they prayed to him, what did they ask for?

The fact that most early medieval people couldn’t write makes for a lot of guesswork. The folk likely did hear of the third century martyr, and in a culture that believed God’s favor ensured military victories, it is fitting to having a saint, especially a tough guy like Christopher, safeguard you on a dangerous, arduous journey.

So I used Saint Christopher in The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar because he is real to my characters. Visit English Historical Fiction Authors for more about Christopher’s legend and its power on the medieval imagination.

Hieronymus Bosch painting of St. Christopher

A scene with Saint Christopher by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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