St George’s Day (23 April) is just around the corner so I am here to help enlighten those of you who aren’t familiar with his work. Basically, St George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina, who became the patron saint of England.
His emblem, the red cross, has become the English national flag and we also have a day, St George’s Day, in his honor. In England the old tradition for St George’s Day, was to wear the national flower, the red rose, in the buttonhole on one’s jacket. However, it does seem that England, unlike other countries, doesn’t celebrate it’s national day with as much passion. In fact, you are more likely to see more people celebrating St Patrick’s Day in England than you are St George’s.
So what did St George do? Well, he is probably most famous for killing the last dragon. According to legend the narrative episode of St George and the Dragon took place in Libya in a place called “Silene”.
Legend has it that there was a town which was near a lake and within this lake lived a plague-bearing dragon who envenomed the countryside and had the local people living in fear. The people of Silene had to appease the dragon and so, they fed it two sheep every day, however, when they had no sheep they had to feed it their children. The children were chosen by lottery and it happened that the lot fell on the king’s daughter.
The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared, but the people refused. So the princess was sent to the lake to be fed to the dragon.
By chance Saint George was riding past the lake as the dragon reared and he charged it on horseback, fortified with the Sign of the Cross, inflicting a grievous wound. He then called for the princess to toss him her girdle which he threw around the dragon’s neck. Once this was done the dragon followed the girl princess like a ‘meek beast on a leash’.
Saint George and the princess led the dragon back to Silene, where it terrified people as it approached. But Saint George called out to them all, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The people of Silene, including the grateful king, all converted to Christianity and George slew the dragon.
On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.
Now, we are almost 100% sure that this never happened. Mainly because there never were any dragons, but it has become one of England’s most famous myths. We celebrate St George’s Day on 23 April, which is the day that he died and also, coincidentally it is the birthday of William Shakespeare.
To look for St George’s Day events near you head to Friday-Ad’s ‘What’s On