Every year we mark (and occasionally celebrate) St George’s Day on 23rd April, but how much do you know about him?
St George, Patron Saint of England, is usually portrayed as a noble knight in shining armour astride a white charger while busy slaying a ferocious, fire eating Dragon – but who was he exactly? Well, he wasn’t a knight and he wasn’t British; he never even came to Britain and it’s pretty unlikely he ever slew a dragon.
He was born in the 3rd century AD in Cappadocia (now part of Turkey). He was a brave Roman Soldier who was beheaded because he objected to the torture of Christians.
He became known as a martyr and was canonised in AD 494. His reputation for virtue and holiness spread across from Europe and his tomb is in Lod. King Richard l (the Lion Heart), while on his crusades, visited the tomb on the eve of a battle in which he was victorious. Consequently he attributed the success to the saint and pronounced him personal patron and protector of the army, so St George became synonymous with knights in armour.
As the Saint of Protection, he was revered through the 13th and 14th centuries. King Edward lll made him the Patron saint of England in 1350 when he created The Order ‘The Nights of the Garter’ in his name.
What about the dragon? Well, in the Middle Ages, a dragon represented evil and so the story was thought to represent the battle between good and evil and probably based on an old Anglo-Saxon legend. In 1940 King George Vl created the George Cross for acts of great heroism & courage and it bears the image of St George vanquishing the dragon.
St George is also the patron Saint of fifteen other countries, and he wasn’t the first patron Saint of England. That was Saint Edmund, born AD 841 and King of East Anglia, he became a martyr when he refused to renounce his Christian faith to share power with the pagan Vikings. St Edmund’s day is November 20th. He was usurped by St George in 1350 and there has long since been a movement in England to reinstate him, the most recent being in 2013. This was the ‘St Edmund for England’ e-petition, backed by the Bury St Edmunds based brewery, Greene King.
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