Tilman Riemenschneider
Saints Christopher, Eustace, and Erasmus

German, Circa 1500-1504
The Cloisters, New York City

This grouping is part of a set that originally pictured all fourteen of the "Holy Helpers." On the right, St. Christopher holds the Christ Child on his shoulders. (The child's head and right arm have been lost.) His hands hold the tall staff that is usual in his portraits.

In the center is St. Eustace, wearing a bevor and breastplate because he was believed to have been a military officer when had the vision of the stag that led to his conversion. Usually an image of that stag is included in his portraits as an attribute, but here the viewer would have to rely on context to identify him.

On the right is St. Erasmus. The legends would have it that he was once bishop of Antioch in the third century but that he fled persecution there and was subjected to tortures in Illyricum that led to his eventual death in the Italian city of Formia. The vitae speak of a variety of tortures, all of them common to the passions of saints martyred under the ancient Romans. In the images he always wears a bishop's mitre. Although a martyr, he is not ordinarily pictured with a palm branch. His usual attribute is a spindle attached to a hole in his midsection, as if the torturers had used the spindle to remove his intestines, although such a torment is not recorded in any extant vita of this saint. His name is sometimes rendered as "St. Elmo." See the Roman Martyrology for June 2, the article on him in the Acta Sanctorum (June vol. 1, 211-219), and Butler, II, 453-54.

Read more about images of St. Christopher.
Read more about images of St. Eustace.

Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.