St George

Martyr, Patron Saint of England

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St George and the dragon
St George
Martyr, Patron Saint of England
(Saint George and the Dragon - Georgian fresco.)

By Angel Lahoz from Fuenlabrada, Spain (Georgia Tiflis Tbilisi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

St George according to legend, was a Roman soldier of Greek origin, an officer in the Guard of the Roman emperor Diocletain. His parents were Greek descendants and early Christians, his father Gerontius (Greek: Γερόντιος, Gerontios meaning "old man" in Greek) was a Roman army official from Cappadocia, and his mother Polychronia (Greek name, meaning she who lives many years) was a Christian and a Greek native from Lydda in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. Lydda (Heb: Lod) was a small Christian town in the territory of Benjamin on the road between Joppa and Jerusalem. We read in the Book of Acts a few days ago, the Apostle Peter came to Lydda and healed Aeneas a man who had been paralysed and bedridden for 8 years and everyone in the town became Christian.

George followed in the footsteps of his father in regards to his career and joined the Roman Army, he did well and became an officer in the Emperor's personal guard, but he had also followed his parents faith. George became one of the victims of the attack upon Christians made by the emperor Diocletian in the last and most severe period of persecution before the Christian faith was recognised by the state. Emperor Diocletian and his chief advisor (think evil Grand Vizier) were both faithful pagan believers in the Roman gods, when deciding what to do about the Christians the emperor argued that forbidding Christians from the bureaucracy and military would be sufficient to appease the gods, but Galerius (the equivalent of a Grand Vizier) pushed for extermination. George as part of the Roman Army was ordered to make sacrifices to the Roman Gods, to prove he wasn't a Christian, he was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith.

The enormous popularity of St George in England seems to have grown up during the crusades. Soldier saints would have appeal for the knights, who were soldiers themselves. A vision of St George and St Demetrius preceded the fall of Antioch on the First Crusade, and Richard I placed himself and his army under the saint’s protection. According to tradition it was King Edward III who made St George patron of the Order of the Garter in 1348, and whose soldiers first raised the cry, “For England and St George”. Soldiers and sailors began to wear his red cross on a white ground as a sort of uniform. A book featuring the Golden Legend with the famous episode of his vanquishing the dragon was published in the 12th Century by Caxton and sealed his fame. Saint George stands out among other saints and legends because he is known and revered by both Muslims and Christians. The dragon rather than a literal beast may have been the symbolic heraldry or standard of an enemy, just as with Christians the dragon of Revelations is symbolic of Satan. The story isn't bad however, check it out at Lunchtime (Sext).

BORN: c. AD 256-285 Palestine

DIED: 23 April 303 (aged 17–47) Nicomedia, Bithynia, Roman Empire