Saint George around the world
Many will know him as the patron saint of England, but did you know he is also the patron saint of Ethiopia and Georgia? More than that, he has been adopted as the patron saint of many towns, cities and regions across the world, including Aragón and Catalonia in Spain, several towns in Greece and Germany, Genoa and Milan in Italy, Beirut in Lebanon and Palestine, as well as countless others. His coat of arms has even become the National flag of Georgia and England.
The man behind the legend
There are many different stories surrounding Saint George and his life, most notably the story of Saint George and the Dragon. But who really was this immortalised man? It is believed that Saint George was born in Cappadocia, in modern day Turkey sometime during the late 3rd century. He was from a noble Christian family and grew up to become a high ranking Roman soldier under the Emperor Diocletian. However, when the Emperor made the decision to start persecuting Christians and expel them from the army, George refused to abandon his religion and was finally executed in the year 303 in Palestine, making him one of Christianity’s first martyrs.
But what about the dragon?
Sadly, dragons don’t exist – and they didn’t back in St George’s day either. The story about him slaying a dragon and saving a princess didn’t actually come about until medieval times and bared a very similar resemblance to an Anglo-Saxon story. Whatever the real story though, this is what St George is remembered for and is immortalised with a spear in his hand, slaying a dragon in pictures, books, coins and symbols all over the world.
Saint George’s feast day is celebrated on April 23rd each year across the world in various ways. He may be the patron saint of England, but St George’s day there is much like any other day. In Catalonia however, St George’s Day, or La Diada de Sant Jordi, as it is known there, is a public holiday. The streets are filled with stalls selling books (as it also coincides with World Book Day) and roses, and children often dress up as knights and princesses. The story here continues that where the dragon’s blood spilled, a rose bush grew in its place and Saint George gave it to the princess he was trying to rescue, as a sign of his love. St George’s day there is somewhat of a local St Valentine’s day with gifts of roses being given to loved ones, friends and family.