Tradition has it that St. George was a Roman soldier and martyr, decapitated in 303 AD during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians. His remains are said to be buried in Lydda, present day Lod in Israel. Relics purported to be those of St. George are to be found in various Eastern and Western churches, including in St. George’s chapel at Windsor castle.
Legends grew up about him as a protector and warrior saint who rescued a Libyan princess by slaying a dragon. This could be the Christian version of the Greek legend of Perseus who killed a sea monster near Lydda, in order to rescue Andromeda.
St. George was known in England by the 8th century. Later, crusaders popularized his cult, especially Richard the Lionheart who wore St. George’s Red Cross on his armor. Then, in the 14th century, Edward III made him the patron of the Order of the Garter and he was recognized thereafter as the patron saint of England. In fact, according to Shakespeare, Henry V famously led his troops into battle at Agincourt with the cry “God for Harry, England and St. George“!
The saint’s qualities as a valiant warrior and protector are recognized in many countries besides England and none more so than in Georgia, in the Caucasus. Here, the country’s patron saint is the eponymous St George (no surprise!)
St. George‘s day is celebrated on the 23rd April but is not a national holiday in England.
by Veronica Smith