Saints Christopher, Eustace, and Erasmus (Three Helper Saints)

Artist: Tilman Riemenschneider (German, 1460–1531)

Date: ca. 1500–1505

Geography: Made in Würzburg, Germany

Culture: German

Medium: Limewood

Dimensions: Overall: 21 x 13 x 4 3/4 in. (53.3 x 33 x 12.1 cm)

Classification: Sculpture-Wood

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1961

Accession Number: 61.86


The figures in this relief represent three of the fourteen Helper Saints, who have been venerated as a group since the early 1300s and became particularly popular in the south of Germany after 1446, when they appeared in a vision to a shepherd in Upper Franconia. They were often carved over the doors of hospitals. Represented is Saint Christopher carrying the Christ Child; Saint Eustace, a general in Trajan's army who converted to Christianity; and Saint Erasmus, a Syrian bishop in episcopal regalia. Saint Erasmus was the patron saint of sailors, but his symbol, a windlass, seems to have been misinterpreted as the spindle around which his entrails were wound during his grisly martyrdom! Because of the means of his martyrdom, he was invoked for help with intestinal disease and childhood colic.