Saint George: Turkish-born Roman soldier celebrated as the patron saint of England
A Picture of Saint George on his horse
Many people wrongly believe that the patron saint of England, Saint George, is of English heritage. However, despite being the symbol of the famed English principles of gallantry, chivalry and honor, George’s roots have nothing to do with England. Additionally, the life story of St. George as we know it today is not based on verifiable facts for the simple reason that very little or nothing at all is known about the actual man. Even so, Saint George is recognized by the church in light of the godly deeds he performed as described in the myths about him.
As the legend goes, Saint George was born to Christian parents in the Turkish region of Cappadocia during the 3rd century. George’s father met his demise when the lad was still young and his mother saw it fit to return to her home country, Palestine. It was in Palestine that George grew to maturity and upon attaining a befitting age he joined the Roman army and steadily rose through the ranks to become Tribune.
At around this time the Emperor of Rome, Diocletian, launched an anti-Christian campaign which he naturally required the army to help him enforce. George was however against participating in Christians’ persecution and practically demonstrated his stance by resigning from the Roman legions. Emperor Diocletian was infuriated by this turn of events and swiftly ordered the imprisonment of George and meting of torture on him in a bid to have him renounce his faith. Nevertheless, despite all the pain and anguish, George remained steadfast to his Christian faith. Finally, the angry Diocletian ordered that George be dragged through the streets of the town of Lydda (then known as Diospolis) before being beheaded. So touching was this incident that the Emperor’s own wife converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, she also met her death following execution orders from Diocletian.
Today George, as the patron saint of England, is most commonly portrayed riding on a stallion, dressed in a white tunic emblazoned with a red cross, as he battles a huge dragon in an attempt to rescue a fair maiden. This image is also based on a myth but which is quite unlike the one previously described. The legend has it that Saint George arrived at the city of Silene, Libya, alongside which was a massive pond that was home to a fearful dragon. The people of the town had decided to offer the dragon two sheep every day for food but the dragon demanded more and so the people began to offer it one sheep and one man. The man to be fed to the dragon was chosen by lots and one day the king’s daughter was the unfortunate choice. The king pleaded with the people but they would hear none of it – she was duly prepared and sent to become the dragon’s meal for the day.
Luckily, this was the day Saint George had arrived and upon seeing her he sought to know what was amiss. The maiden told him about the dragon and urged him to escape before he too was devoured. Suddenly the dragon appeared and George, after praying to God, gallantly fought against it and then had the maiden tie her girdle around its neck before leading the now meek beast into town. Celebrations erupted in the town and the king and the people were all baptized as Christians before George slew the dragon. Later the king built the Our Lady of Saint George church and on its site sprang a fountain that produced water capable of healing the sick.