Thursday is the feast day of St George. As a nation, we tend not to make
much of a fuss about this day. There are rarely special events organised,
although scouting and guiding often have parades, and this year of
course there will be even fewer! But it is worth taking a look at the man
chosen to be the patron saint of England.
St George’s story has become focused on his slaying of the dragon and
as such he is seen as the archetypal hero who defeats evil. The picture
above depicts that story. But there’s more to him than just this legend.
Although, as with many early saints, facts are very sketchy, it seems that
he was born into a noble Christian family in the late third century in
Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey. He followed his father's
profession of soldier and became part of the retinue of the Emperor
Diocletian. He stood up against the persecution of Christians in the
fourth century because he was so disgusted by the barbaric methods
employed by the Empire. He was so impressed by the faith of those who
died believing in Jesus that he became a Christian himself, even though
he knew that this would mean certain death. In 303, he was himself
tortured and executed in Palestine, becoming an early Christian martyr.
At a place called Lod, near Tel Aviv in Israel, St George’s Church is the
alleged resting place for his body.
Although there are churches dedicated to St George from before the
Norman Conquest it is believed that it was Richard the Lionheart who
decided to adopt George as our English saint after returning from the
crusades, (replacing Edward the Confessor), probably because he, too,
was impressed by the military might of this hero.
Among Palestinian Christians, however,l St George is seen as a
protector of the home, as a healer and as someone who stood up against
the misuse of power. It was at Lod – which in Bible times was called
Lydda – that St Peter brought peace and healing to a man who had been
paralysed for eight years (Acts 9: 32-35). Surely this is the sort of power
of which St George would have approved and for which he would want to be remembered as a saint.