Today, 23rd April, is the day that we get to celebrate our Patron Saint of England, Saint George…the legendary dragon slayer. The Patron Saints carry both facts and myths around with them, but like most, we prefer to consider the myths to be true. It makes celebrating the day more meaningful and superior.
Here is some information about Saint George. To start with, there are sources out there suggesting the he wasn’t born an Englishman, just like Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish. Saint George was born into a Christian family around 270 A.D. and later became a Roman soldier in Palestine. With his strong Christian beliefs, it led our honourable hero into some serious trouble. Saint George preached and protested against Emperor Diocletian, his leader, who led Rome’s persecution of Christians. He was later tortured and eventually dragged through the streets to be beheaded. Saint George fought for what he believed in, which is probably why he is so respected today, but when you think of our Patron Saint, what’s the first thing that you think of? Brave? Courageous? Heroic? Or a dragon?
We’re all picturing a Knight, carrying a sword, wearing a white tunic with a red cross on it, charging through on a horse ready to kill the dragon. This is by far the most traditional story of any Patron…George and the Dragon, which was turned into a film in 2004, starring the late Patrick Swayze. The story behind the famous dragon slaying began with a plague-bearing dragon in a town called Silene during the 10th century. The people of this town began feeding the dragon two sheep a day to try and soothe the dragon, but this wasn’t working, so the only other option was to feed the dragon children, who were chosen at a random. Heartless we know, but back then this seemed like the only feasible option. However, the child selected was in fact the King’s daughter. The King tried to plead with the people of Silene, but they weren’t going to step down or give in. In other words, if the King’s daughter didn’t go, it would be one of their children that did. No surprise here that everyone kept quiet and said no! This is probably one of the biggest sacrifices told. However, little did the Princess know that her Knight in shining armour would be here to rescue her and save the day! George killed the dragon, single handed with his sword and then dragged it back through the streets of the Silene for everyone to see.
Although this legendary story originated in the 10th century, it was only in 1222 that Saint George’s Day was made official by the Council of Oxford. We may consider Saint George to be one of the most famous and heroic Patrons that is celebrated around the world, but it still hasn’t be made an official national day, unlike Saint Patrick’s, Saint Andrew’s and Saint David’s Day. Apart from slaying the dragon, Saint George introduced other forms of national identity such as, the English flag. The flag of England is one of the oldest flags dating back to the 16th century with Saint George’s cross on it, on a white background. Some of us will be familiar with The George Cross, an award given to people who have been recognised for their “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”. As we said, Saint George’s Day is celebrated around the world, including Cyprus, Canada, Portugal, Palestine and many more.
We couldn’t go without saying Happy Birthday to another legendary individual who is also a patriotic figure in England and the rest of the UK…William Shakespeare.
Now stay away from those dragons and finally… Happy Saint George’s Day!
“Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George”, William Shakespeare.