Saturday, January 16, 2010

San Cristobal y Elian Gonzalez

San Cristobal y Elian Gonzalez
created in 2000
photograph by E. G. Shempf
mixed media and fiber, hand sewn and beaded

San Cristobal ( St. Christopher )
Patron of travelers, invoked against nightmares, peril from water, plague and tempests
Feast Day: 25 July
?third century

The only known fact about Christopher is that he was martyred in Asia Minor. A church in Bithynia, now northern Turkey, was dedicated to him in c.450. The rest is legend.

Offero, his birth name, was a man colossal in stature. He wished to serve the most powerful king in the world. A follower of Satan until a hermit wearing a crucifix, teaching Christianity, drew him away. Offero was assigned the task of living near a river and carrying people across. One stormy night a small child asked Offero to carry him on his shoulder across the raging waters. The child grew heavier and heavier as Offero reached the far shore. Upon arriving safely on the other side, the child revealed himself as Christ. He gave Offero the name Christopher ("Christophoros" in Greek means Christ bearer) and told him that he had just born the weight of the world on his shoulder. Christopher planted his staff by the side of the river where it instantly became a palm tree. He then set out to preach the gospel in Lycia, in Asia Minor. In Lycia, Christopher was arrested for refusing to sacrifice to Roman gods. After spending time in prison, he was condemned to death and beheaded. It is believed that anyone who sees an image of the saint will not die on that day. Christopher is usually depicted holding the Christ Child and often a staff and is sometimes depicted wading in water.

It occurred to me that it must have been Christopher that helped Elian Gonzalez cross the "river" to the shores of Florida.

Christopher is dressed in a Baroque manner and wears a silk Cuban cigar band around his waist. Elian is depicted with a square halo since he is alive. A cross is planted on the shore to memorialize Elian's mother, Elisabeth Brotons. The globe that I fashioned has only Florida and Cuba. The maps and text came from an 1890s encyclopedia. Although these words were written over one hundred years ago, oddly they sound quite current. May pins are located at the spots Christopher picked up Elian and placed him. In Christopher's left hand is a safe passage key.

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