The Patron Saints of Travel

Most of us are accustomed to think of St. Christopher when we hear the expression "patron saint of travel". This might be partly due to childhood memories of days when automobiles had metal dashboards and it seemed almost every other vehicle had a 4 inch plastic statute of St. Christopher magnetically held to the dashboard. This patron of travelers gets his patronage from a thirteenth century legend about a giant man. This man lived alone along the bank of a raging river. He would help travelers cross the raging river in safety, so it happened one day he helped a small child traveling alone to cross. Thus was derived the universally accepted imagery of the patron saint of travel carrying a small child on his shoulders as he crosses a turbulent river. The legend has it the child Jesus is the one on his shoulders beingprovided safety in his travels. This legendary figure was supposedly based upon a giant man who lived in the fourth century. Slight problem : the facts about the life of this giant are obscure to the point question has arisen if he ever existed. The situation is that St. Christopher the patron saint of travel might be a legendary story about a person that never existed.

This might be discomforting to learn of the situation, however despair not. Did you know there are at least 23 other patron saints of safe travel recognized by the Catholic Church? Let us take a minute to look at a few, some straightforward and one very unusual but historically documented. We save that for last.

What about the ladies? Do we have one or more who is considered the patron saint of travelers?

St. Christopher Patron of Tavelers
Saint Brigid of Ireland Patron St of Travel

First there is St. Brigid of Ireland who lived in the fifth century. Stories, legends, persecutions, undocumented miracles, etc. constitute much of what today is considered "history" so actual documented facts can be scarce. Her father was a pagan chieftain and her mother was a Portuguese slave. Her pagan father resisted her wish for a vocation to the religious life. Brigid gave generously to the poor, both local and travelers, that came to her father's door. This continually angered her father and the final such event was when Brigid gave away his jeweled sword. Her father relented and allowed Brigid to enter a convent and become a nun. Providing for needy travelers is the reason St. Brigid is a patron saint of travel.


St. Bona of Pisa is another patron saint of safe travel. As a child she had a vision of Jesus, Virgin Mary and three saints, was frightened and ran off. Saint James the Greater, one of the three, led her back to the vision and thus she became a life long devotee to Saint James. There is some dispute but mostly agreement that the remains of St James are buried in Northern Spain. St. Bona of Pisa led nine 1,000 mile pilgrimages from Pisa to Northern Spain and back involvingthousands of pilgrims. The safe passage of the pilgrims on each journey was attributed to St. Bona and she is honored to this day as a patron saint of safe travel.


St. Joseph of Cupertino's life story is odd to say the least, but he lived in early 1600's so there is written history not far removed from present day. Joseph was extremely slow witted despite trying very hard to learn. He had an unusually strong love of God since childhood and joined a friary in his early twenties. Joseph apparently suffered from vaguely defined absence seizures wherein his facial expression froze, his month gaped open, and his eyes were unresponsive. The mention of the name Jesus or Mary when he was in such a state caused St. Joseph of Cupertino to soar in to the air and hover for minutes. This is the reason he is the patron saint of air travel for the millions who soar in to the sky (aircraft) every year.




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