|Saint George of Lydda|
|Born||between ca. AD 256 and 285, Nicomedia, Bithynia, Roman Empire|
|Died||April 23, 303,
Lydda, Iudaea, Roman Empire
|Major shrine||Church of Saint George, Lod|
|Attributes||Clothed as a soldier in a suit of armour or chain mail, often bearing a lance tipped by a cross, riding a white horse, often slaying a dragon. In the West he is shown with St George's Cross emblazoned on his armour, or shield or banner.|
Saint George (ca. 275/281 – 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier and priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.
Saint George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Fakiha, Bteghrine, Cáceres (Spain), Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Milan, Pomorie, Preston, Qormi, Lod, Barcelona and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organizations, and disease sufferers.
Historians have debated the exact details of the birth of Saint George for over a century, although the approximate date of his death is subject to little debate. The Catholic Encyclopedia takes the position that there seems to be no ground for doubting the historical existence of Saint George, but that little faith can be placed in some of the fanciful stories about him.
The work of the Bollandists Danile Paperbroch, Jean Bolland and Henschen in the 17th century was one of the first pieces of scholarly research to establish the historicity of the saint's existence via their publications in Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca and paved the way for other scholars to dismiss the medieval legends. Pope Gelasius stated that George was among those saints whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.
The traditional legends have offered a historicised narration of George's encounter with a dragon: see "St. George and the Dragon" below. The modern legend that follows below is synthesized from early and late hagiographical sources, omitting the more fantastical episodes, to narrate a purely human military career in closer harmony with modern expectations of reality. Chief among the legendary sources about the saint is the Golden Legend, which remains the most familiar version in English owing to William Caxton's 15th-century translation.
It is likely that Saint George was born to a Christian noble family in Lydda, Palestine during the late third century between about 275 AD and 285 AD, and he died in Nicomedia. His father, Gerontius, was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and his mother was from Palestine. They were both Christians and from noble families of Anici, so by this the child was raised with Christian beliefs. They decided to call him Georgius (Latin) or Geōrgios (Greek), meaning "worker of the land". At the age of 14, George lost his father; a few years later, George's mother, Polychronia, died. Eastern accounts give the names of his parents as Anastasius and Theobaste.
Then George decided to go to Nicomedia, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father, Gerontius — one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.
In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.
Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.
Although the above distillation of the legend of George connects him to the conversion of Athanasius, Edward Gibbon argued that George, or at least the legend from which the above is distilled, is based on George of Cappadocia, a notorious Arian bishop who was Athanasius' most bitter rival. According to Professor Bury, Gibbon's latest editor, "this theory of Gibbon's has nothing to be said for it". He adds that: "the connection of St. George with a dragon-slaying legend does not relegate him to the region of the myth". And according to the 4th century historian Rufinus, Athanasius was actually brought up by Christian ecclesiastical authorities from a very early age, beginning while he was merely a young boy. George of Cappodocia did have a military connection, but as a black market supplier, and he was strangled to death by an enraged mob, on account of his pillaging and other deprivations, rather than being executed or tortured for his faith.
The episode of St George and the Dragon was a legend brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Romance. The earliest known depiction of the legend is from early eleventh-century Cappadocia, (in the iconography of the Eastern Orthodox Church, George had been depicted as a soldier since at least the seventh century); the earliest known surviving narrative text is an eleventh-century Georgian text.
In the fully-developed Western version, which developed as part of the Golden Legend, a dragon makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of "Silene" (perhaps modern Cyrene) in Libya or the city of Lydda, depending on the source. Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep can be found, then a maiden must go instead of the sheep. The victim is chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She is offered to the dragon, but there appears Saint George on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the cross, slays the dragon, and rescues the princess. The grateful citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity.
The dragon motif was first combined with the standardised Passio Georgii in Vincent of Beauvais' encyclopedic Speculum historale and then in Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend, which guaranteed its popularity in the later Middle Ages as a literary and pictorial subject.
The parallels with Perseus and Andromeda are inescapable. In the allegorical reading, the dragon embodies a suppressed pagan cult. The story has other roots that predate Christianity. Examples such as Sabazios, the sky father, who was usually depicted riding on horseback, and Zeus's defeat of Typhon the Titan in Greek mythology, along with examples from Germanic and Vedic traditions, have led a number of historians, such as Loomis, to suggest that George is a Christianized version of older deities in Indo-European culture.
A church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction", according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George. By the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the saint in Lydda existed. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.
During the fourth century the veneration of George spread from Palestine through Lebanon to the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire -though the martyr is not mentioned in the Syriac Breviarium- and Georgia. In Georgia the feast day on November 23 is credited to St Nino of Cappadocia, who in Georgian hagiography is a relative of St George, credited with bringing Christianity to the Georgians in the fourth century. By the fifth century the cult of Saint George had reached the Western Roman Empire as well: in 494, George was canonized as a saint by Pope Gelasius I, among those "whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to [God]."
In England the earliest dedication to George, who was mentioned among the martyrs by Bede, is a church at Fordington, Dorset, that is mentioned in the will of Alfred the Great. "Saint George and his feast day began to gain more widespread fame among all Europeans, however, from the time of the Crusades." The St. George's flag, a red cross on a white field, was adopted by England and the City of London in 1190 for their ships entering the Mediterranean to benefit from the protection of the Geonoese fleet during the Crusades and the English Monarch paid an annual tribute to the Doge of Genoa for this privilege. An apparition of George heartened the Franks at the siege of Antioch, 1098, and made a similar appearance the following year at Jerusalem. Chivalric military Order of St. George were established in Aragon (1201), Genoa, Hungary, and by Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Edward III put his Order of the Garter under the banner of St. George. In England the Synod of Oxford, 1222 declared St. George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. The chronicler Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War. In his rise as a national saint George was aided by the very fact that the saint had no legendary connection with England, and no specifically localized shrine, as of Thomas Becket at Canterbury: "Consequently, numerous shrines were established during the late fifteenth century," Muriel C. McClendon has written, "and his did not become closely identified with a particular occupation or with the cure of a specific malady."
The establishment of George as a popular saint and protective giant in the West that had captured the medieval imagination was codified by the official elevation of his feast to a festum duplex at a church council in 1415, on the date that had become associated with his martyrdom, 23 April. There was wide latitude from community to community in celebration of the day across late medieval and early modern England, and no uniform "national" celebration elsewhere, a token of the popular and vernacular nature of George's cultus and its local horizons, supported by a local guild or confraternity under George's protection, or the dedication of a local church. When the Reformation in England severely curtailed the saints' days in the calendar, St. George's Day was among the holidays that continued to be observed.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the earliest text preserving fragments of George's narrative is in an Acta Sanctorum identified by Hippolyte Delehaye of the scholarly Bollandists to be a palimpsest of the fifth century. However, this Acta Sancti Georgii was soon banned as heresy by Pope Gelasius I (in 496).
The compiler of this Acta, according to Hippolyte Delehaye "confused the martyr with his namesake, the celebrated George of Cappadocia, the Arian intruder into the see of Alexandria and enemy of St. Athanasius". A critical edition of a Syriac Acta of Saint George, accompanied by an annotated English translation was published by E.W. Brooks (1863–1955) in 1925. The hagiography was originally written in Greek.
In Sweden, the princess rescued by Saint George is held to represent the kingdom of Sweden, while the dragon represents an invading army. Several sculptures of Saint George battling the dragon can be found in Stockholm, the earliest inside Storkyrkan ("The Great Church") in the Old Town.
St. George is most commonly depicted in early icons, mosaics and frescos wearing armour contemporary with the depiction, executed in gilding and silver colour, intended to identify him as a Roman soldier. After the Fall of Constantinople and the association of St George with the crusades, he is more often portrayed mounted upon a white horse.
At the same time St George began to be associated with St. Demetrius, another early soldier saint. When the two saints are portrayed together mounted upon horses, they may be likened to earthly manifestations of the archangels Michael and Gabriel. St George is always depicted in Eastern traditions upon a white horse and St. Demetrius on a red horse St George can also be identified in the act of spearing a dragon, unlike St Demetrius, who is sometimes shown spearing a human figure, understood to represent Maximian.
A 2003 Vatican stamp issued on the anniversary of the Saint's death depicts an armored Saint George atop a white horse, killing the dragon.
Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, compiled the Legenda Sanctorum, (Readings of the Saints) also known as Legenda Aurea (the Golden Legend) for its worth among readers. Its 177 chapters (182 in other editions) contain the story of Saint George.
Modern Russians interpret the icon not as a killing but as a struggle, against ourselves and the evil among us. The dragon never dies but the saint persists with his horse (will and support of the people) and his spear (technical means). In Eastern Orthodox Christianity it is possible to find Icons of St.Georgie riding on Black horse, as well, there are various examples in Russian Iconography, like the Icon in British Museum Collection.
The "Colours of Saint George", or St George's Cross are a white flag with a red cross, frequently borne by entities over which he is patron (e.g. the Republic of Genoa and then Liguria, England, Georgia, Catalonia etc).
The origin of the St George's Cross came from the earlier plain white tunics worn by the early crusaders.
The same colour scheme was used by Viktor Vasnetsov for the facade of the Tretyakov Gallery, in which some of the most famous St. George icons are exhibited and which displays St. George as the coat of arms of Moscow over its entrance.
In the General Calendar of the Roman Rite the feast of Saint George is on April 23. In the Tridentine Calendar it was given the rank of "Semidouble". In Pope Pius XII's 1955 calendar this rank is reduced to "Simple". In Pope John XXIII's 1960 calendar the celebration to just a "Commemoration". In Pope Paul VI's 1969 calendar it is raised to the level of an optional "Memorial". In some countries, such as England, the rank is higher.
St George is very much honored by the Eastern Orthodox Church, wherein he is referred to as a "Great Martyr", and in Oriental Orthodoxy overall. His major feast day is on April 23 (Julian Calendar April 23 currently corresponds to Gregorian Calendar May 6). The Russian Orthodox Church also celebrates two additional feasts in honour of St. George: one on November 3 commemorating the consecration of a cathedral dedicated to him in Lydda during the reign Constantine the Great (305–337). When the church was consecrated, the relics of the St. George were transferred there. The other feast on November 26 for a church dedicated to him in Kiev, ca. 1054.
In Egypt the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria refers to St George as the "Prince of Martyrs" and celebrates his martyrdom on the 23rd of Paremhat of the Coptic Calendar equivalent to May 1. The Copts also celebrate the consecration of the first church dedicated to him on June 10th.
The country of Georgia, where devotions to the saint date back to the fourth century, is named after him, as well as a large number of towns and cities around the world. Geographer Vakhushti Bagrationi wrote that there are 365 Orthodox churches in Georgia named after Saint George according to the number of days in a year.
In England, where traces of the cult of Saint George predate the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century, by the fourteenth century the saint had been declared both the patron saint and the protector of the royal family.
Devotions to Saint George in Portugal date back to the twelfth century, and Saint Constable attributed the victory of the Portuguese in the battle of Aljubarrota in the fourteenth century to Saint George. During the reign of King John I (1357–1433) Saint George became the patron saint of Portugal and the King ordered that the saint's image on the horse be carried in the Corpus Christi procession.
Saint George is also one of the patron saints of the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo. In a battle between the Maltese and the Moors, Saint George was alleged to have been seen with Saint Paul and Saint Agata, protecting the Maltese. Besides being the patron of Victoria where St. George's Basilica, Malta is dedicated to him, St George is the protector of the island Gozo.
There is a tradition in the Holy Land of Christians and Muslim going to an Eastern Orthodox shrine for St. George at Beith Jala, Jews also attending the site in the belief that the prophet Elijah was buried there. This is testified to by Elizabeth Finn in 1866, where she wrote, "St. George killed the dragon in this country Palestine; and the place is shown close to Beyrut. Many churches and convents are named after him. The church at Lydda is dedicated to St. George: so is a convent near Bethlehem, and another small one just opposite the Jaffa gate; and others beside. The Arabs believe that St. George can restore mad people to their senses; and to say a person has been sent to St. George's, is equivalent to saying he has been sent to a madhouse. It is singular that the Moslem Arabs share this veneration for St. George, and send their mad people to be cured by him, as well as the Christians. But they commonly call him El Khudder —The Green—according to their favorite manner of using epithets instead of names. Why he should be called green, however, I cannot tell—unless it is from the colour of his horse. Gray horses are called green in Arabic."  A possible explanation for this colour reference is Al Khidr, the erstwhile tutor of Moses, gained his name from having sat in a barren desert, turning it into a lush green paradise.
William Dalrymple reviewing the literature in 1999 tells us that J.E. Hanauer in his 1907 book Folklore of the Holy Land: Muslim, Christian and Jewish "mentioned a shrine in the village of Beit Jala, beside Bethlehem, which at the time was frequented by all three of Palestine's religious communities. Christians regarded it as the birthplace of St. George, Jews as the burial place of the Prophet Elias, Muslims as the home of the legendary saint of fertility known simply as Khidr, Arabic for green. According to Hanauer, in his day the monastery was "a sort of madhouse. Deranged persons of all the three faiths are taken thither and chained in the court of the chapel, where they are kept for forty days on bread and water, the Eastern Orthodox priest at the head of the establishment now and then reading the Gospel over them, or administering a whipping as the case demands.' In the 1920s according to Taufiq Canaan's Mohammedan Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine, nothing seemed to have changed, and all three communities were still visiting the shrine and praying together."
Dalrymple himself visited the place in 1995 "I asked around in the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem, and discovered that the pace was very much alive. With all the greatest shrines in the Christian world to choose from, it seemed that when the local Arab Christians had a problem – an illness, or something more complicated: a husband detained in an Israeli prison camp, for example – they preferred to seek the intercession of St George in his grubby little shrine at Beit Jala rather than praying at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem or the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem." He asked the priest at the shrine "Do you get many Muslims coming here?" The priest replied, "We get hundreds! Almost as many as the Christian pilgrims. Often, when I come in here, I find Muslims all over the floor, in the aisles, up and down."
The Encyclopædia Britannica quotes G.A. Smith in his Historic Geography of the Holy Land p. 164 saying "The Mahommedans who usually identify St. George with the prophet Elijah, at Lydda confound his legend with one about Christ himself. Their name for Antichrist is Dajjal, and they have a tradition that Jesus will slay Antichrist by the gate of Lydda. The notion sprang from an ancient bas-relief of George and the Dragon on the Lydda church. But Dajjal may be derived, by a very common confusion between n and l, from Dagon, whose name two neighboring villages bear to this day, while one of the gates of Lydda used to be called the Gate of Dagon."
(Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications) (On-line Introduction)
There's more than one place called Saint George, St. George, or St. George's:
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SAINT GEORGE (d. 303), the patron saint of England, Aragon and Portugal. According to the legend given by Metaphrastes the Byzantine hagiologist, and substantially repeated in the Roman Ada sanctorum and in the Spanish breviary, he was born in Cappadocia of noble Christian parents, from whom he received a careful religious training. Other accounts place his birth at Lydda, but preserve his Cappadocian parentage. Having embraced the profession of a soldier, he rapidly rose under Diocletian to high military rank. In Persian Armenia he organized and energized the Christian community at Urmi (Urumiah), and even visited Britain on an imperial expedition. When Diocletian had begun to manifest a pronounced hostility towards Christianity, George sought a personal interview with him, in which he made deliberate profession of his faith, and, earnestly remonstrating against the persecution which had begun, resigned his commission. He was immediately laid under arrest, and after various tortures, finally put to death at Nicomedia (his body being afterwards taken to Lydda) on the 23rd of April 303. His festival is observed on that anniversary by the entire Roman Catholic Church as a semi-duplex, and by the Spanish Catholics as a duplex of the first class with an octave. The day is also celebrated as a principal feast in the Orthodox Eastern Church, where the saint is distinguished by the titles /Icy aXopaprvp and Tp07rac040pos.
The historical basis of the tradition is particularly unsound, there being two claimants to the name and honour. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. viii. 5, writes: " Immediately on the promulgation of the edict (of Diocletian) a certain man of no mean origin, but highly esteemed for his temporal dignities, as soon as the decree was published against the churches in Nicomedia, stimulated by a divine zeal and excited by an ardent faith, took it as it was openly placed and posted up for public inspection, and tore it to shreds as a most profane and wicked act. This, too, was done when the two Caesars were in the city, the first of whom was the eldest and chief of all and the other held fourth grade of the imperial dignity after him. But this man, as the first that was distinguished there in this manner, after enduring what was likely to follow an act so daring, preserved his mind, calm and serene, until the moment when his spirit fled." Rivalling this anonymous martyr, who is often supposed to have been St George, is an earlier martyr briefly mentioned in the Chronicon Pascale: " In the year 225 of the Ascension of our Lord a persecution of the Christians took place, and many suffered martyrdom, among whom also the Holy George was martyred." Two Syrian church inscriptions bearing the name, one at Ezr'a .and the other at Shaka, found by Burckhardt and Porter, and discussed by J. Hogg in the Transactions of the Royal Literary Society, may with some probability be assigned to the middle of the 4th century. Calvin impugned the saint's existence altogether, and Edward Reynolds (1599-1676),bishop of Norwich, like Edward Gibbon a century later, made him one with George of Laodicea, called " the Cappadocian," the Arian bishop of Alexandria (see [[George Of Laodicea]]).
Modern criticism, while rejecting this identification, is not unwilling to accept the main fact that an officer named Georgios, of high rank in the army, suffered martyrdom probably under Diocletian. In the canon of Pope Gelasius (494) George is mentioned in a list of those " whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God," a statement which implies that legends had already grown up around his name. The caution of Gelasius was not long preserved; Gregory of Tours, for example, asserts that the saint's relics actually existed in the French village of Le Maine, where many miracles were wrought by means of them; and Bede, while still explaining that the Gesta Georgii are reckoned apocryphal, commits himself to the statement that the martyr was beheaded under Dacian, king of Persia, whose wife Alexandra, however, adhered to the Christian faith. The great fame of George, who is reverenced alike by Eastern and Western Christendom and by Mahommedans, is due to many causes. He was martyred on the eve of the triumph of Christianity, his shrine was reared near the scene of a great Greek legend (Perseus and Andromeda), and his relics when removed from Lydda, where many pilgrims had visited them, to Zorava in the Hauran served to impress his fame not only on the Syrian population, but on their Moslem conquerors, and again on the Crusaders, who in grateful memory of the saint's intervention on their behalf at Antioch built a new cathedral at Lydda to take the place of the church destroyed by the Saracens. This cathedral was in turn destroyed by Saladin.
The connexion of St George with a dragon, familiar since the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, can be traced to the close of the 6th century. At Arsuf or Joppa - neither of them far from Lydda - Perseus had slain the sea-monster that threatened the virgin Andromeda, and George, like many another Christian saint, entered into the inheritance of veneration previously enjoyed by a pagan hero.' The exploit thus attaches itself to the very common Aryan myth of the sun-god as the conqueror of the powers of darkness.
The popularity of St George in England has never reached the height attained by St Andrew in Scotland, St David in Wales or St Patrick in Ireland. The council of Oxford in 1222 ordered that his feast should be kept as a national festival; but it was not until the time of Edward III. that he was made patron of the kingdom. The republics of Genoa and Venice were also under his protection.
See P. Heylin, The History of ... S. George of Cappadocia (1631); S. Baring-Gould, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages; Fr. Gorres, " Der Ritter St Georg in der Geschichte, Legende and Kunst " (Zeitschrift far wissenschaftliche Theologie, xxx., 1887, Heft i.); E. A. W. Budge, The Martyrdom and Miracles of St George of Cappadocia: the Coptic texts edited with an English translation (1888); Bolland, Acta Sancti, iii. 101 E. O. Gordon, Saint George (1907); M. H. Bulley, St George for Merrie England (1908).
' G. A. Smith (Hist. Geog. of Holy Land, p. 164) points out another coincidence. " The Mahommedans who usually identify St George with the prophet Elijah, at Lydda confound his legend with one about Christ himself. Their name for Antichrist is Dajjal, and they have a tradition that Jesus will slay Antichrist by the gate of Lydda. The notion sprang from an ancient bas-relief of George and the Dragon on the Lydda church. But Dajjal may be derived, by a very common confusion between n and 1, from Dagon, whose name two neighbouring villages bear to this day, while one of the gates of Lydda used to be called the Gate of Dagon. It is a curious process by which the monster that symbolized heathenism conquered by Christianity has been evolved out of the first great rival of the God of Israel.
According to a legend, Saint George of Lydda killed a dragon and saved the lives of many people. It is sometimes called 'The Golden Legend'. It is a legend that is older than Christianity, which some people believe is based on gods from different religions, such as Sabazios.
A city called Silene had a large lake, where a plague-bearing dragon who breathed fire and disease lived. The dragon poisoned all the countryside. To please the dragon, the people of Silene gave it a sheep every day, for food, and when there were no more sheep, they gave their children to the dragon. The children were chosen by a lottery.
One year the lottery chose the King's daughter. The King, sad and desperate, asked the people to take all his gold and silver, and half of his empire - but only if his daughter could be saved. The people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed in white as a bride, to be a fine meal for the dragon.
Not knowing this, Saint George was riding past the lake on the same day. The princess, terrified and trembling, tried to send him away, but George said he would stay and protect her.
The dragon came suddenly out of the lake while they were speaking. Saint George made a gesture called the Sign of the Cross, jumped on his horse and advanced toward the dragon. He used his long spear to hurt the dragon badly. Then he asked the princess to throw her long pretty belt to him. He put the silk belt around the dragon's neck. Now, the dragon followed the girl like a humble pet follows its master.
The Princess and Saint George took the dragon back to the city of Silene, where the people were terrified to see the dragon enter. But Saint George told them not to be scared. He said that if the people became Christians and went to Church to be baptized, he would kill the dragon immediately.
The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George killed the dragon with his sword, 'Ascalon', and its body was taken out of the city on carts. Fifteen thousand men were baptized, not counting women and children. On the site where the dragon died, the king built a Church for the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George. From the altar in the church came a fountain of holy water. The water cured any disease.
The story of Saint George and the Dragon symbolizes when good wins over evil, and is very famous. It might be based on the Greek legend of Perseus and Andromeda. It is the subject of a lot of art through many centuries. In Sweden, the Princess symbolizes the nation of Sweden, and the dragon represents a foreign army of enemies. The story was passed from parent to child through songs in Russia. It was also made into the story 'The Reluctant Dragon' by Kenneth Ransome, which was made into a Disney film.
Saint George's Day (also England's National Day) is on April 23rd, although this is not a holiday in the UK. He is the patron saint of many other countries, too - including Greece, Palestine, Georgia, Portugal and Russia. Moscow, Russia has 41 Churches with the name of Saint George, and the Moscow city Coat of Arms, or symbol, is of Saint George on a horse killing the dragon. Saint George is the patron saint of the Boy Scouts of America.
On St George's day some people in England wear a red rose, or put an English flag in their window. The flag of England is white with a red cross. The design of the flag is often called 'The Saint George Cross', or 'The Colors of Saint George'.