surinenglish

23 April 303: St George beheaded for refusing to renounce Christianity

The legend of the dragon was popularised in the 13th century.
The legend of the dragon was popularised in the 13th century. / SUR
  • Although identified with English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry, his life remains somewhat mysterious

The feast of St George is celebrated in numerous countries around the world, including Lithuania, Portugal, Germany and Greece, but it is probably St George's association with England that most people will relate to on 23 April.

Although identified with English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry, St George was not the first patron saint of England - that honour was originally held by St Edmund in the ninth century. In 1348, Edward III founded the Knights of the Garter, and made St George the patron of the Order and also declared him Patron Saint of England. However, he was not English and he is not thought to have visited Britain.

Even though St George is perhaps one of Christianity's most venerated saints, his achievements have been questioned by the scholarly and his life is something of a mystery. He is believed to have served as a soldier in the Roman army during the latter part of the 3rd century AD, but resigned in protest of the Emperor's persecution of Christians. He was then imprisoned for refusing to renounce Christianity and was beheaded by the Emperor Diocletian on 23 April 303 AD.

It was his supposed taming and slaying of a fierce dragon that set him apart from most of his fellow martyrs. The account of his heroism is found in the Golden Legend, a collection of biographies based on saints and ecclesiastical leaders written in the 13th century. The legend of George and the Dragon was popularised in the middle ages, becoming a favourite literary and pictorial subject and an integral part of the Christian traditions relating to St George.

St George also holds the honour of being patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, while in recent years, he has been adopted as patron saint of the Scouts.

He is not only the patron saint of England, but also of Catalonia (San Jordi), Aragón and Cáceres in Extremadura (San Jorge).

The St George's Cross - Creu de San Jordi - is one of the highest civil distinctions awarded in Catalonia; although 23 April is not a public holiday, unlike in Aragón, where it is a fiesta known as the Día de Aragón.

Legend says that God sent St George, who descended from Heaven riding on a horse, to aid the King of Aragón, Pedro I, in his conquest of Huesca in 1096. To celebrate this victory, Saint George's cross was used as the insignia of Huesca and Aragón.