On the 23rd April, England, along with a host of other countries, celebrates St George’s day. But, how much do you know about St. George?
St. George was probably called Georgios and was a high-ranking officer in the Roman army and not a knight as often depicted. He was of either Turkish or Greek origin, born in Cappadocia, which is now part of Turkey. He was tortured and sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith by the emperor, Diocletian in AD 303.
He was tortured for seven years to make him deny his faith, but he never recanted, showing incredible courage and faith which led him to become a martyr to the people. Little else is known about him. There is no doubt that he existed, however, there is nothing else to confirm any of his exploits or history.
In AD 494 he was canonized as a saint by Pope Gelasius I and, became the patron saint for a host of countries. He was also a military saint and one of the ‘Fourteen Holy Helpers’, which was a holy group of saints’ that people turned to when in times of trouble.
The most well-known story about St. George is the slaying of the dragon, however, it wasn’t until the 12th century that the legend of the dragon became widespread. There are countless accounts about the story, including different locations where the fight happened, including England and Libya. But it is the ‘Golden Legend’, translated from Jacobus de Voragine, an Italian chronicler which is the best known.
In this tale St. George passes the village of ‘Silene’ in Libya. Close to this city was a pond where there lived a ferocious sea-dragon. The people of the village sacrificed sheep, but when the beast wasn’t satiated, they sacrificed their children, by a lottery.
One day the lottery fell on the king’s daughter, which was when St George happened upon the village. He promised to slay the beast if the village converted to Christianity, which it did, and thus he slew the dragon with a lance called ‘Ascalon’.
King Edward III made him the patron saint of England in 1350 when he formed ‘the Order of the Garter’, however, this was obscured by the previous Patron Saint, Edward the Confessor, until 1552 when Edward VI abolished all other saint’s banners but George’s during the English Reformation.
Saint George is also the patron saint of the following countries; Australia, New Zealand, Georgia, Malta, Spain, Germany, Catalonia, the Balearic’s, Sicily, Sardinia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Russia and Greece.
· Winston Churchill named his personal aircraft ‘Ascalon’, after St. George’s lance
· William Shakespeare helped immortalise St. George in his play ‘Henry V’ with the lines “Cry god for Harry, England and St. George”
· St. George never set foot on English soil
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