Saint George and the Dragon

Saint George slaying the dragon, based upon a true story at the outset of Emperor Diolectian’s persecution of the Christians, is alive and well in the 3rd millennium. St. George, Georg, Jürgen, Joris, Sjors, Jurriaan, Georgius, Georges, Giorgio, Jorge, Jordi, or Gheorghe one of the most venerated and celebrated saints in the Catholic Church (Latin and Eastern), Anglican, Orthodox, East Syrian, or Miaphysite Churches.

A Princess rescued from a dragon is a heroic mythic common to many legends, fairy tales, and chivalric romances.
A Princess rescued from a dragon is a heroic mythic dream model common to many legends, fairy tales, and chivalric romances. Until the last century, theme was often presented by artists.  The famous pre-Raphaelite Burne-Jones from 1865-67 painted a series of 7 paintings representing the legend including this one

He is immortalized in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial, Saint George’s Day, is traditionally celebrated on the Julian date of 23 April and then again 13 days later of the 6th of May according to the Gregorian Calendar, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints. Countries that celebrate St George’s Day include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, England, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia. Cities include Genoa in Italy, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta, Ljubljana in Slovenia, and many others.

In the Arab Muslim world the martyr merges with a venerated symbol known as al-Khidr, a mystical, righteous and wise servant of God described in the Quran. This is the date William Shakespeare’s unequaled contribution to humanity is most often celebrated as both his date of birth and death. UNESCO declared the 23rd of April the International Day of the Book. Many songs and poems written about this dragon-slaying saint still inspire us today.

Rio de Janeiro in Brazil  combines a second fighting martyr with African psychic energy deities from the Yoruba tradition with  Saint George (Ogun) by adding Saint Sebastian (Oxossi). Both of them were also venerated by the Portuguese, and both of them Candomble deities; Ogum, the warrior, and Oxossi, the hunter. Candomble is a spiritual practice that revolves around  rituals, offerings, and dances which are closely associated with the African contribution to the Carnivals of the new world.  Moscow in Russia has probably more sculptures of St. George slaying the dragon than any other city. Modern Russians interpret the icon not as a killing but as a struggle, against ourselves and the evil among us. Others might say the real dragon is you when your ego holds you back from finding your true calling or bliss.

Orthodox-Bulgarian_icon_of-Saint-George-fighting-the-dragon.jpgAccording to the Golden Legend brought back to Europe by the Crusaders, Saint George visited a city in Libya ruled by an idolatrous emperor.
The town had a lake, where a plague-bearing dragon dwelt thatpoisoned all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene usedto feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fedit their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell onthe king’s daughter,  Sabra.  The king, distraught with grief, toldthe people they could have all his gold and silver and half of hiskingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter wassent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon. Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross,  charged it on horseback with his lance, and gave it a grievous wound. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon’s neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.
The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. “Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children.”

There are many versions of the true story where an individual’s courage of conviction inspired many others to also rise up determined to stand their ground. Perhaps the most significant clarification would have to do with Emperor Diocletian’s wife who died after him but was likely a Christain and likely present at the epic clash of wills.

George’s father,Gerontios, was anupper class Greek from Cappadocia (Turkey) and an officer in the Romanarmy; and his mother,Polychronia, was a Greek native of Lydda Syria Palaestina. who raised their child with Christian beliefs. Eastern accounts give the names of his parents as Anastasius and Theobaste.  After losing his father at age 14, George decided to go to Nicomedia and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father, Gerontius — one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the high military rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia

The “Colours of Saint George”, or St George’s Cross are a white flag with a red cross. The crusaders from long ago whose plain white tunics emblazoned with the red cross signaled their mission are credited with inventing the symbol. The symbol is still used frequently, borne by entities over which he is patron (e.g. the Republic of Genoa and then Liguria, England, Georgia, Catalonia.
The “Colours of Saint George”, or St George’s Cross are a white flag with a red cross. The crusaders from long ago whose plain white tunics emblazoned with the red cross signaled their mission are credited with inventing the symbol. The symbol is still used frequently, borne by entities over which he is patron (e.g. the Republic of Genoa and then Liguria, England, Georgia, Catalonia.

On 24 February AD 303, the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding the legal rights of Christians and demanding that they comply with traditional Roman religious practices.

Diocletian further decreed in his edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods. George resolved to publically object despite the likely consequences, and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose one of his best tribunes for defying his orders. George loudly renounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods; he made many offers, but George never accepted

Recognizing the futility of his efforts and insisting on upholding his edict, Diocletian ordered that George be executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. Without fear, he went to the Emperor and sternly scolded him for being so cruel. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was then executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall,

 

Her three servants Apollo, Isaac and Codratus went to prison with her, the first two died of hunger while the last was beheaded with her on April 21, 303 a.d. Her feast day is usually celebrated on April 23, when she is commemorated at the same time along with the soldier martyrs Anatolios and Protoleon and the 630 others who were martyred for professing faith while witnessing George's martyrdom. The Coptic Church venerates her on April 8.
Saint  Alexandra of Rome with her three servants Apollo, Isaac and Codratus went to prison with her, the first two died of hunger while the last was beheaded with her on April 21, 303 a.d. Her feast day is usually celebrated on April 23, when she is commemorated at the same time along with the soldier martyrs Anatolios and Protoleon and the 630 others who were martyred for professing faith while witnessing George’s martyrdom.   She is sometimes confused with Saint Prisca. When Diocletian retired to Spalatum in 305, Prisca stayed with her daughter, Galeria Valeria and son-in-law, Galerius in Thessalonica. When Galerius died in 311, Licinius was entrusted with the care of Prisca and her daughter Valeria. The two women, however, fled from Licinius to Maximinus Daia. After a short time, Valeria refused the marriage proposal of Maximinus, who arrested and confined her in Syria and confiscated her properties. At the death of Maximinus, Licinius had Prisca and her daughter killed in 315.

 

While Saint George was being tortured, the wife of Diocletian, Empress Alexandra went to the arena, bowed before him and professed her faith openly. When she questioned whether she was worthy of paradise and of martyrdom without being baptized, Saint George told her “Do not fear, for your blood will baptize you.” Her husband was so outraged by her conversion that he is said to have uttered “What! Even thou hast fallen under their spell!”George’s body was taken from Nicomedia to Lydda by his mother, who had estates there. Miracles of healing soon began to be claimed by many who had visited his tomb, and early pilgrims would take dust away to bring blessings on their families, flocks, herds and houses. St George on his white horse came to be regarded as the quintessential Christian soldierBy the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the saint in Lydda existed. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.

George’s body was taken from Nicomedia to Lydda by his mother, who had estates there. Miracles of healing soon began to be claimed by many who had visited his tomb, and early pilgrims would take dust away to bring blessings on their families, flocks, herds and houses. St George on his white horse came to be regarded as the quintessential Christian soldierBy the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the saint in Lydda existed. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.

By the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to the saint in Lydda existed. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.

Saint George is also one of the patron saints of the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo. In a battle between the Maltese and the Moors, Saint George was alleged to have been seen with Saint Paul and Saint Agata, protecting the Maltese. Besides being the patron of Victoria where St. George’s Basilica is located,  St George is hailed as the protector of the Maltese island of Gozo. This parish church is referred to as "the golden church" of Gozo. It is entirely covered with marble and gold stucco. The church houses two works of art by the famous painter Mattia Preti. including the main altar piece representing St George with the dragon  as well as this Titular statue of St George by Pietru Pawl Azzopardi
Saint George is also one of the patron saints of the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo. In a battle between the Maltese and the Moors, Saint George was alleged to have been seen with Saint Paul and Saint Agata, protecting the Maltese. Besides being the patron of Victoria where St. George’s Basilica is located, St George is hailed as the protector of the Maltese island of Gozo. This parish church is referred to as “the golden church” of Gozo. It is entirely covered with marble and gold stucco. The church houses two works of art by the famous painter Mattia Preti. including the main altar piece representing St George with the dragon as well as this Titular statue of St George by Pietru Pawl Azzopardi

We all have some “dragon” we have to conquer. It might be pride, or anger, or laziness, or greediness, or something else our ego cannot get beyond. This tale is about a champion of right rather than might calling power to account through truth despite the consequences, something as relevant and worthy today in this time of religious fervor and uncertainty as it has ever been.

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