April 23rd marks St George’s Day here in England – a day we remember our Patron Saint who is often depicted as a heroic knight slaying a ferocious dragon. But, as with many saints, St George’s true life and history will largely remain a mystery. Here are 6 fun facts about St George and today’s historic celebrations to shed a little light on England’s Patron Saint.
St George Never Visited England
According to English Heritage, St George never actually made it to good old blighty. His reputation as a virtuous and holy man spread across Europe, and upon reaching England, He became popular with the English Monarchy – Edward I created banners bearing St George’s emblem (the famous red cross on a white background) in the late 12th Century.
England isn’t the only Country to Celebrate St George
St George’s fame and reputation spread through much of Europe – and the world. Today, he is the patron saint of dozens of countries including Georgia, Portugal, Ethiopia, and Cyprus!
Middle Age Protection
Throughout the Middle Ages, people believed St George to be one of the 14 holy helpers. These helpers were a group of saints who could help and protect the public during epidemic diseases. From 1100, St George’s help was also sought to protect the English Army! During the Great War, the ghost of St George is said to have aided troops during their retreat from Mons, saving the lives of countless British soldiers.
Although St George’s Day celebrations are relatively low key in today’s society, many local communities across England still mark St George’s Day with historic traditions and activities. From Morris Dancing, to eating fish and chips, or watching a Punch and Judy puppet show, there’s always something going on in local towns and villages on April 23rd!
Protests and Punishment
St George met his end after resigning from his military post and protesting against his pagan leader – the Emperor Diocletian (the leader of Rome’s persecution of Christians). Although these protests ultimately cost St George his head, many were inspired by his bravery and loyalty to his religion. In fact, the Emperor’s wife was so inspired, she became a Christian and was later executed for her faith.
Dragon or no Dragon?
The legend of St George tells the tale of a knight riding into Silene (Libya) to free the city from a ferocious dragon – but this story only appeared in literature in the 9th Century (500 years after George even existed).
Do you celebrate St George’s Day? Let us know in the comments below!