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George and the dragon

Who was St George? His name appears on churches and pubs alike, and we probably all associate him with the dragon. But why is England's patron saint a mythical character? The simple answer to that is - he isn't! Read on...

ChildAlthough he is the Patron Saint of England, George was actually born in Lydda in Palestine, of Turkish, or some say Roman/Palestinian parents. George's father was a high ranking, wealthy Imperial Officer who died when George was just a young boy. Following in his father's footsteps, he, too became a soldier at 17, achieving the rank of Tribune and was a personal favourite during the reign of Emporer Diocletian, who loved power and was very ruthless. He began to persecute Christians in what became known as The Diocletianic Persecution (303–11 AD). Appalled at this, George left the army and returned to Lydda where he freed all of his Outstretched handown slaves and gave away what money he had before going to challenge the Emperor, even though he expected to be executed for this. It was on his way to see the Emperor that legend takes up his story, when he came across a dragon that was terrorising a town. The town had resorted to offering up in sacrifice animals and children under 15 in order to appease the dragon. Even the King's daughter was included, at which point George happened by. He killed the dragon, so overwhelming the King and his subjects that he and all his people agreed to be baptised and they all became Christians.

Man in chainsReturning to the historical account of his life, George then continued his journey to Nicomedia and the Imperial Court, where he pleaded for the persecution of Christians to end. He was imprisoned and tortured savagely but he refused to renounce his faith. George was beheaded it is believed on 23rd April 303 and his body was returned to Lydda where Emporer Constantine (306-337) later built a church at the place of his burial. The idea of rescuing a damsel in distress fitted in well with his reported reputation for chivalry, courtesy and courage, and his fearless and right-thinking character, which inspired young men, particularly in the Middle Ages. His story became very popular among the Crusaders who brought it back to England, where he Despairing manbecame Patron saint.

This - if true - would have been heroic indeed. However, he is also remembered for the bravery and self sacrifice that he showed in his defence of Christianity, and he is Patron saint not just of England but of other countries too, and held in high regard within the Muslim faith as a healer of people with mental health problems ... perhaps a different kind of dragon that needs to be fought with just as much strength.


This prayer is often prayed to him:

St. George, heroic Catholic Soldier and defender of your faith,

you dared to criticize a tyrannical Emperor,

and were subjected to horrible torture.

You could have occupied a high military position,

but you preferred to die for your Lord.

 Good St. George,

obtain for us the great grace of heroic Christian courage

that should mark all soldiers of Christ.


 St George's Church at Lydda by David Roberts Image in Public Domain

St George's Church at Lydda


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