About Saint George

Early 15th century Ukrainian icon of Saint George.
"Saints George and Paraskeva" Wood, tempera. Ukrainian, Late 15th or early 16th century.

"Saints George and Paraskeva"
Wood, tempera.
Ukrainian, Late 15th or early 16th century.

 

Saint Geroge, Born to a noble Christian family of Cappadocia late in the third century, Saint George was the son of a Roman Army official. His mother was from Palestine. His name, George, means 'worker of the land'.

The Saint George Legend contends that after his parents' deaths when George was still a teenager, he decided to go to Nicomedia to present himself to the Roman Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms (because he regarded St. George's father as one of his finest soldiers). By the time he reached his late twenties, Saint George has obtained the rank of Tribunus (colonel or second in command) and was stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedeia.

It was the year 302, A.D. when Diocletian issued the edict ordering the arrest of every Christian soldier in his army. Saint George, using the courage of his faith, faced the Emperor to loudly renounce the edict. In front of his fellow soldiers, Saint George proclaimed himself a Christian and declared worship only to Jesus Christ.

Diocletian attempted to convert St. George by offering him gifts of land, money and slaves but St. George refused to accept them. Before he was executed, St. George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared to face death. He was dragged through the street and tortured excessively, including laceration on a wheel of swords. It is said he was resuscitated from that particular torture three times. He was beheaded at the city wall on April 23, 303. April 23 has become his feast day.

One Saint George Story claims he tore down the Emperor's decrees as they were posted in Nicomedia. St George the saint was one of Diocletian's first victims, although, the emperor became well-known for his persecution of Christians. The Emperor's wife, Alexandria, was so impressed by St. George's courage that she converted to Christianity and was also put to death.

Saint George was buried at Lydda, Palestine.
He was canonized in 494 A.D. by Pope Gelasius who proclaimed him one of the number "whose names are justly revered among men but whose acts are known only to God".

Of the many legends surrounding St. George, the most famous concern his killing a dragon in effort to protect the princess, Cleolinda. This legend derives from the Greek Church honoring George as a soldier and as saint of great bravery and protection in battle. The story was elaborated during the Crusades and the version we know today actually stems from the troubadours of the 14th Century.

It is said the St. George spirits appeared to the Christian Army before the Battle of Antioch and to Richard the Lionhearted of England several times during the Crusades. At the end of the Crusades Saint George replaced Edward the Confessor as Patron Saint of England and was officially proclaimed patron in 1425 after Henry V's victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

In the early centuries it was common among Catholics to invoke the spiritual assistance of fourteen ancient saints, primarily martyrs, for help in personal problems. Those problems include and extend beyond physical disorders such headaches, stomachaches, epilepsy and include storms, traveling, diabolical possession, madness. Those Fourteen Saints became known as the '14 Holy Helpers'. They are the patrons of maidens, mechanics, architects and builders, philosophers, beggars, midwives and childbearing women, physicians, dancers, etc. Among them by name, St. George (of soldiers), St. Blaise (of throat ailments and veterinarians), St. Christopher (of travelers), St. Barbara (against storms) St. Denis (against headaches), St. Margaret (pregnant women), St. Catherine (philosophers).

Beyond the dragon, another St. George legend is that he and the prophet Elias were walking with Jesus through Georgia. Being tired and hungry they stopped to ask for food from a shepherd. First Elias asked for food. When the shepherd asked for his identity Elias explained, "I am the one who sent rain to nourish your crops." The shepherd became angry and replied, "You also send thunderstorms to destroy the farms of poor widows."

Jesus Christ approached the shepherd, explaining. "I am God the creator of everything." The angry shepherd declared, "You take souls from young men and grant long life to dishonest people."

Finally Saint George approached the shepherd. He said, "I am George, the one you call when trouble is at hand, I protect you against all evil."

The shepherd fell to his knees in worship and gave the saint everything he owned.
This folk tale expresses the veneration of St. George in the middle ages.

Brave Saint George, dressed in shiny armor, is trying to rescue a princess from a terrible dragon that is terrorizing her town. - Carpaggio 1502-08

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