St Georges Day

23rd April 2020

Happy St George's Day
 
Saint George is the patron saint of England. He's popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry

Patron saint

White flag divided into equal sections by one horizontal and one vertical red stripeSaint George's flag

St George is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to Saint Mark).

He's also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis.

In recent years he has been adopted as patron saint of Scouts.

His life

Who was Saint George?

Saint George on his horse attacking the dragon with a lance in an old religious paintingAn icon of Saint George ©

The story of Saint George is so wrapped in myth and legend that it's difficult to extract the historical facts of a real life.

Some believe he never existed or that he's a Christianised version of an older pagan myth.

In the early centuries of Christianity, followers would write up fabulous accounts of the lives of their heroes. This enhanced George's reputation but left the details of his life very blurred.

Early life

What people believe to be the truth is that George was born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey, in the 3rd century; that his parents were Christians; and that when his father died, George's mother returned to her native Palestine, taking George with her.

George became a soldier in the Roman army and rose to the rank of Tribune.

Persecution of Christians

Close-up on the face of an armoured Saint GeorgeGeorge by Cosmè Tura in a 1474 altarpiece ©

The Emperor of the day, Diocletian (245-313 AD), began a campaign against Christians at the very beginning of the 4th century. In about 303 AD George is said to have objected to this persecution and resigned his military post in protest.

Torture and martyrdom

George tore up the Emperor's order against Christians. This infuriated Diocletian, and George was imprisoned and tortured - but he refused to deny his faith. Eventually he was dragged through the streets of Diospolis (now Lydda) in Palestine and beheaded. It's said that Diocletian's wife was so impressed by George's resilience that she became a Christian and that she too was executed for her faith.