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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Saint George

Little is known about the life of Saint George (d c303) apart from the fact he was a soldier in the Roman army who was martyred for his Christian beliefs at Lydda in Palestine at the beginning of the 4th century.

Many stories have been ascribed to the saint, the best known being the legend of George and the dragon. A pagan town in Libya was being victimized by a dragon (representing the devil), which the inhabitants first attempted to placate by offerings of sheep, and then by the sacrifice of various members of their community. The daughter of the king (representing the church) was chosen by lot and was taken out to await the coming of the monster, but George arrived, killed the dragon, and converted the community to Christianity.

St. George slays the dragon. Georgian Fresco

By the 5th century the Christians of Syria and Egypt were consecrating monasteries and churches to him and within a hundred years the same thing was happening in Western Europe.

In 494, Pope Gelasius said St. George was among the saints “whose names are justly reverenced among men but whose actions are known only to God”.

The cult of Saint George, was originally introduced to the English by the crusaders.In 1222 , the Council of Oxford ordered that the feast of Saint George be celebrated as a national festival. Later in the thirteenth century the popular collection of rather outlandish details concerning the saints, The Golden Legend, which included the story of Saint George, enhanced his reputation even further.

Portrait by Hans von Kulmbach, circa 1510

As a result of the success of the war cry "St George for England", King Edward III appointed Saint George as patron saint of England,  replacing Saint Edmund the Martyr, probably in 1348 .

St George's badge, a red cross on white background,  became a symbol of England. It was emblazoned on the standards of the army, who were fighting the French in the Hundred Years War., and on the English flag.

Saint George's Day is celebrated on April 23rd, the traditionally accepted date of St. George's death in 303 AD. The establishment of George as a popular saint and protective giant in the West was codified by the official elevation of his feast to a festum duplex at a church council in 1415, on the day, April 23rd, that had become associated with his martyrdom,

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.

Some doubts have been expressed about whether Saint George actually existed at all.  Because of these doubts, Pope Paul VI demoted Saint George to ‘optional worship’ in 1969.

John Paul II reinstated Saint George to full membership of the calendar of saints in 2000.

St George is also patron saint of Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Georgia, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia.

Bulgarians celebrate St George’s Day on May 6th when it is traditional to roast a whole lamb

St George is patron saint of Scouts, who see April 23 as the first day for camping.

Source Daily Express

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