The legend of Lielais Kristaps (Big Christopher in English) is intrinsically bound to the history of the Latvian capital city of Riga.
In the third century, a kind-hearted giant originally named Offero resided in a cave on the banks of the Daugara River and would carry travelers across its raging waters. One day, a small child approached him and asked for help crossing the river. The giant of course obliged, but the boy became so heavy that Offero, despite his immense size and strength, struggled to reach the opposite bank.
Having eventually completed the crossing, the child introduced himself as Christ and explained that the great weight Offero had carried was the sins of the world. He then baptized the giant and named him Christopher, or “Christ-Bearer.” Upon returning to his cave, the giant discovered a hoard of gold, which he used to found the city of Riga.
The original eight-foot statue of Christopher, which was carved from wood sometime around 1590, now resides in the Museum of Riga for protection. Locals still lay wreathes of flowers at the base of a replica enclosed within a glass box before journeys to earn Offero’s protection. Today’s statue dates to 1997 and was carved by artist Girts Upitis.
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