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St George - Patron Saint Of England

St George, the Patron Saint of England - stained glass at a church in Salisbury, England showing detail of St George

St George, the Patron Saint of England - stained glass at a church in Salisbury, England showing detail of St George

Saint George: Patron Saint Of England

Saint George is the patron saint of England and is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity. St George's Day is celebrated on 23rd April.

Saint George is known throughout the world as a martyr who died for his Christian faith and as a "soldier saint" who represents the knightly values of chivalry. There are many legends of the life of St George including the famous tale of St George and the Dragon and he has come to symbolise the triumph of good over evil.

The Flag of England is the Cross of St George - a red cross on a white background which has come to symbolise English national pride and patriotism!

As well as being the Patron Saint of England, St George is also the patron saint of many other countries including Ethiopia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia!

St George, patron of England, on the rood screen at St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough

St George, patron of England, on the rood screen at St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough

Who Was St George?

St George was a Roman soldier born in Turkey in the 3rd century AD, who became a Christian martyr.

St George is believed to have been born in Cappadocia in what is now Turkey in the 3rd century into a noble Christian family. His father was an official in the Roman army and George followed in his father's footsteps and became a soldier. George quickly became noted for his virtuous character, handsome physique and outstanding valour. There are many legends of his military skill and bravery, including the famous tale of St George and the Dragon!

George speedily rose through the ranks of the Roman army and became an officer in charge of a regiment of over a thousand men. His outstanding deeds impressed the Roman Emperor Diocletian and George became one of his favourites.

Emperor Diocletian ruled over Rome during a period of civil unrest and he attempted to control his people by means of a strict regime of discipline against anyone who broke his laws. He was also a Pagan who believed in reviving ancient Roman traditions. He felt that the rise of Christianity was contributing to to the civil unrest and when he became aware of an alleged Christian plot to assassinate his second in command, he ordered that all Christian churches should be destroyed and that all Christians should be forced to renounce their religion - the penalty for not doing so was death.

As a Christian himself, George did his best to use his position and authority to help the persecuted Christians which not surprisingly incurred the anger of Diocletian. Despite his personal liking for George and his admiration for him as a talented and brave soldier, Diocletian ordered George's arrest and insisted that he renounce his Christian faith.

George was summoned to appear in public in the presence of Diocletian and rather than save himself by agreeing to the Emperor's demands, he sealed his fate by making an impassioned and eloquent public speech criticising Diocletian for his persecution of Christians. In response, Diocletian imprisoned George with orders that he be tortured until he renounced his faith.

George bravely suffered the torture but steadfastly refused to denounce his religion and he was sentenced to death.

George was beheaded on 23rd of April 303.

George became venerated as a Christian martyr and was canonised as a Saint in the year 494.

"The Execution of Saint George" by Altichiero da Verona c.1380 - Fresco from Oratorio di San Giorgio, Padua

"The Execution of Saint George" by Altichiero da Verona c.1380 - Fresco from Oratorio di San Giorgio, Padua

"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot;

Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,

Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!'

— Henry V, Act III, Scene I by William Shakespeare

Why Is Saint George The Patron Saint Of England?

How St George became the patron saint of England

By the time of the Crusades, the tales of St George had spread to Europe. It is said that King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) had a vision of Saint George who promised the English forces victory and from then on St George's emblem of a red cross against a white background became worn as an English military symbol.

During the medieval period, the tales of St George became increasingly popular and the brave, handsome and noble St George was seen as the embodiment of the knightly values of Chivalry.

On 23 April 1344 King Edward III founded The Order of the Garter, a "a society, fellowship and college of knights" which was dedicated to St George and which sought (and still does to this day!) to uphold the virtues embodied by St George.

In 1415 the victory of the English army against the French at the Battle of Agincourt marked the adoption of Saint George as England's Patron Saint, replacing Saint Edmund the Martyr.

Arms of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

Arms of the Most Noble Order of the Garter

You can find out more about the history of Saint George and his association with England at:

The Legend of St George and the Dragon

"Saint George Slaying the Dragon" by Jost Haller(c. 1410-1485?), Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France

"Saint George Slaying the Dragon" by Jost Haller(c. 1410-1485?), Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France

St George The Dragon Slayer - the most well known legend of St George recounts how he killed a dragon and rescued a Princess!

The legend of St George and the Dragon was brought to Europe by the Crusaders and the first known written version of the tale dates back to the 11th Century.

There are several variants of the legend but the most common elements are that a city was being terrorised by a dragon who dwelled in a nearby cave. To appease the dragon, the people of the town gave it their sheep and other domestic animals, but when there were no more animals left they were forced to feed it their children chosen by lottery. Only the daughter of the King was exempt. When all the children had been eaten by the dragon, the people grew angry and demanded that the Princess suffer the same fate as their own children. In desperation, the King offered money and jewels in exchange for her life, but the people dragged the young Princess away and left her tied to a tree near the dragon's cave to await her doom.

By chance, St George happened to ride past on his white horse and seeing the terrified girl, attempted to release her just as the dragon emerged from it's cave. Making the sign of the Cross, St George fought the dragon and after a fierce battle, slew it. He freed the Princess and cutting off the dragon's head, he triumphantly rode into the city. Presenting the head of the monster to the people and reuniting the King with his daughter, the grateful populace allowed George to baptise them all as Christians and built a church on the site of the dragon's lair.

The Flag of England

The Union Flag and the flag of England - the Union Flag (Union Jack) incorprates the Cross of St George to represent England and Wales

The Union Flag and the flag of England - the Union Flag (Union Jack) incorprates the Cross of St George to represent England and Wales

The St George's Cross is a red centred cross on a white background (in heraldry it's described as: "Argent, a cross gules").

Also known as The Cross of St George, the emblem has been associated with Saint George since medieval times. According to BritishFlag.us it's association as a symbol of England began when:

"...the Pope made the decision that English crusaders would wear a white cross on red, French crusaders a red cross on white and Italian crusaders a yellow cross on white. The English traded with their rivals, the French in January of 1188, so that they could don the red cross with white background."

Along with the emblems of other saints, the Cross of St George appeared on English flags during the Middle Ages and according to the Wikipedia article Flag of England it:

"...achieved the full status of national flag in the sixteenth century, when all other saints' banners were abandoned during the Reformation."

The St George's Cross is incorporated into the Union Flag (sometimes referred to as the Union Jack) - the flag of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and stands for both England and Wales (this is because at the time the flag was designed, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England!)

The date of St George's day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England's calendar, when St George's Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter!

Source: Wikipedia

Celebrating St George's Day In England

April 23rd is St George's Day!

St George's Day used to be a national holiday in England. It was as important a feast day as Christmas!

But not everyone was happy with such festivities! According to the Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, in 1552 the spoilsport Bishop of London tried to put a stop to all the fun:

"...wher as it hathe bene of ane olde costome that sent Gorge shulde be kepte holy day thorrow alle Englond, the byshoppe of London commandyd that it shulde not be kepte..."

Sadly, his wishes came true and slowly but surely, the English people stopped the national celebration of St George's Day with only a few places such as the city of Salisbury keeping the tradition alive :(

However St George was not entirely forgotten...in 1894 The Royal Society of St George was founded:

"...with the noble object of promoting "Englishness" and the English way of life..."

In recent years, more and more English people have started expressing a desire to once again mark St George's Day by reviving old customs and expressing their patriotic pride in their country. MPs started to press for St George's Day to be made a national holiday in England and in 2009, Boris Johnson the Mayor of London, fronted a campaign to revive St George's Day celebrations resulting in a St George's Day Pageant being held in the City of London in 2010, after a hiatus of 425 years!

England & St George - A video montage of images of Saint George and England.

Music: "Jerusalem" by Fat Les

© 2010 LouiseKirkpatrick

Do you celebrate St George's Day?

Debbie from England on April 23, 2013:

What a fabulous lens about our patron Saint. I have learnt loads from your page! Thank you! This is what LOTD is all about and it's such a shame this wasn't chosen today... maybe next year ;)

reasonablerobby on August 04, 2012:

Hi, what a really informative and interesting lens. The Olympics are creating a certain amount of identity dissonance though LOL so we have Union Flags and St George flags in cupboards for the appropriate occasion. August 2012 is definitely a team GB moment though. :)

anonymous on May 17, 2012:

Scouting celebrates St George's Day every year - as St George is also the Patron Saint of Scouting. This year, in Nottingham alone, over 800 Beavers, Cubs and Scouts paraded from the Castle to the Old Market Square - with a parade headed by St George, the Dragon and and Notts Constabulary Pipe band. Nottingham is not alone. Scouts throughout the UK also celebrate. frequently with a similar parade. Long may it continue

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on April 24, 2012:

"Keep calm and have a cupcake." Words to live by. I agree. This should have been LOTD today!

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on April 24, 2012:

Many congratulations on the very well deserved Purple Star. For Harry, England and Saint George as someone might have said :-)

LouiseKirkpatrick (author) from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on April 23, 2012:

@indigoj: I think Custard is great..the edible kind and the lensmaster kind! Happy Saint George's Day Word Custard :D

LouiseKirkpatrick (author) from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on April 23, 2012:

@TonyPayne: Thanks so much poddys - Happy St George's Day :)

LouiseKirkpatrick (author) from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on April 23, 2012:

@Heather426: Personal sidenotes are always welcome! Remembering your father, St George and William Shakespeare on this day :)

LouiseKirkpatrick (author) from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on April 23, 2012:

@MaggiePowell: It's one of those timeless tales that captures the imagination of children - little boys love to be St George!

LouiseKirkpatrick (author) from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on April 23, 2012:

@pkmcruk: Happy St George's Day Paul - and a BIG thank you for publicising this lens :)

Indigo Janson from UK on April 23, 2012:

Good for you and for Paul for waving the flag today... and yes, why isn't this LOTD?

England, Custard, and St George sounds like something well worth celebrating. Though I'm exiled in these wild lands north of the border, you've given me a reminder of home. Angel dust sprinkles for your bowl of best M&S custard today.

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on April 23, 2012:

What an excellent lens on Saint George. It's a shame this could not have been Lens Of The Day today, it truly deserves it. Wonderful, blessed.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on April 23, 2012:

Fantastic lens, and if you'll allow a personal sidenote, my father was George Gardner, and he died on April 23, 2005! He was descended from English royalty, so I think it very fitting for him to leave on the day of St. George. 7 years and still missing him.

MaggiePowell on April 23, 2012:

Love the story of St George and the Dragon.

pkmcr from Cheshire UK on April 23, 2012:

Happy St George's Day!

poppy mercer from London on April 14, 2012:

Our dear allotment secretary raises the union flag atop the allotment shop shed...Quietly glancing up at the flag fluttering against a clear blue sky last year whilst sowing my lettuce seeds was strangely magical. Angel blessings to you and St. George.

Richard from Surrey, United Kingdom on April 01, 2012:

I try to wave the flag, even though I'm in the States right now. Blessed by a proud Englishman :)

Francis Luxford from United Kingdom on March 02, 2012:

YAY! Let's hear it for St. George! Nice Lens!

CoeGurl on February 29, 2012:

Love the red and white design on St. George merchandise!

stgeorgesholiday on June 18, 2011:

The UK government are thinking about making St George's Day a bank holiday in England. Hooray! Check http://www.stgeorgesholiday.com/dcms

ChrisDay LM on March 14, 2011:

Lensrolled to my 'Quiz - Saint George', Quiz - England' and 'Quiz - English and British History'.

MargoPArrowsmith on February 11, 2011:

Thumbs up

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