Saint George

Christian martyr, born in Cappadocia in eastern Asia Minor.   His life is obscured by legend, but his martyrdom at Lydda, Palestine, is generally considered a matter of historical fact.

George and the Dragon

The most popular of the legends that have grown up around him relates his encounter with the dragon, a story that may have been influenced by the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda.   A pagan town in Libya was victimized by a dragon (representing the devil), which the townspeople first attempted to placate by feeding two lambs a day. With no lambs left the dragon demanded a human meal.   The daughter of the king (representing the church) was chosen by lot and was taken out to await the coming of the monster.   George arrived and crippled the dragon by thrusting his lance into it.   Tying her girdle round the dragon's neck, the princess led it limping to the town.   George told the terrified citizens that if they were baptized, the dragon would be slain.   They all agreed and about 15,000 people were baptized.   Four ox carts were needed to moved the dragon's body to a distant meadow.

Cultuses and Crusades

Saint George is mentioned as one whose name was held in reverence by a canon of Pope Gelasius I, dated 494.   He was venerated across Europe and known in England before the Norman conquest of 1066.   His image can be found all over the Middle East, the Balkans and Greece.

During the Crusader battle of Antioch in 1098, Frankish knights were blessed with a vision of George and another knight, St. Demitrius.   Possibly on his return from the Third Crusade a century later, Richard I promoted the veneration of St. George in England.

Patronage


In 1222 the Council of Oxford ordered that the feast of Saint George, on April 23, be celebrated as a national festival, and in the 14th century he became the patron saint of England and of the Order of the Garter.

Because so little is actually known of St George, he was decanonized in 1960, and today his feast day is reduced to prayer during mass.   His flag, a red cross on white background, was well known by the 14th century and is the national flag of England.

St. George's Anglican Church
Kitchener, Ontario

Place of Art in Worship
by Arthur Custance