The Royal Society of Saint George
History of St. George
The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
Who was St George? What is myth and what is fact? Did he really slay the Dragon? Why is he such a popular Saint, celebrated in so many Countries, Races, Religions and Organisations?
Most authorities on the subject seem to agree that he was born in Cappadocia in what is now Turkey, in about the year 280 AD. It is probable that from his physical description, he was of Darian origin, because of his tall stature and fair hair. He enlisted into the Cavalry of the Roman Army at the age of 17, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian and very quickly established a reputation amongst his peers, for his virtuous behaviour and physical strength; his military bearing, valour and handsome good looks.
He became a particular favourite of his Emperor. Diocletian’s second in Command was Galerius, the conqueror of Persia and an avid supporter of the Pagan religion. As a result of a rumour that the Christians were plotting the death of Galerius, an edict was issued that all Christian Churches were to be destroyed and all scriptures to be burnt. Anyone admitting to being a Christian, would lose his rights as a citizen, if not his life
Having become a convert to Christianity, St. George acted to limit the excesses of Diocletian’s actions against the Christians. He went to the city of Nicomedia where, upon entering, he tore down the notice of the Emperor’s edict. St. George gained great respect for his compassion towards Diocletian’s victims.
He prepared for the event of being arrested by disposing of his property to the poor and he freed his slaves. The Emperor consigned St George to prison with instructions that he be tortured until he denied his faith in Christ
St George, having defended his faith was beheaded at Nicomedia near Lyddia in Palestine on the 23rd of April in the year 303 AD. His head was carried to Rome, where it was preserved in the Church that is also dedicated to him.
St George was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church. His reputation for virtue and chivalrous conduct became the spiritual inspiration of the Crusaders and by this time the pennant or flag with a red cross on a white or silver background became prominent as a means of recognition by English Knights. It was also worn on breast plates. Many regiments of the Army still celebrate St. George’s Day with great ceremony. In the year 1348 King Edward Ill established the Knights of the Garter, which is the oldest order of Chivalry in Europe.
In 1352 the College of St George was established in Windsor, with 6 Chorister boys and since then, St George’s school has played an important role in the daily worship and on State Occasions in the Queen’s Free Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle. During World War II, King George V1 established the George Cross for outstanding acts of Civilian Valour and one of the earliest recipients was the Island of Malta, for its outstanding courage in the face of the constant bombardment by the Italian and German Air Force.
The medieval legend of St George and the dragon says that a dragon made it’s nest by a fresh water spring near the town of Silene in Libya. When people came to collect water, they inadvertently disturbed the dragon and so offered sheep as a distraction. After time, there were simply no sheep left for the dragon and so the people of Silene decided to chose a maiden from the town by drawing lots. When the results were read, it was revealed that the princess was to be the dragon’s next victim. Despite the Monarch’s protest his daughter, Cleolinda, was offered to the dragon.
However, at the moment of offering, a knight from the Crusades came riding by on his white stallion. St George dismounted and drew his sword, protecting himself with the sign of the cross. He fought the dragon on foot and managed to slay the beast and saved the princess. The people of Silene were clearly very grateful and abandoned their pagan beliefs to convert to Christianity.