Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


22 Apr 2020, 4 p.m.
Church_news Notices

April 23 is the day we commemorate the life of St George, the patron saint of England.

He is remembered as a martyr. Fifth century records confirm his existence. It seems he was a soldier and a victim of the Diocletian persecutions in Lydda, Palestine. Diocletian was responsible for some of the most vicious ethnic cleansing against the early Christians from 303 to 304. It is claimed that George, a Roman army officer, gave his possessions to the poor and openly confessed his Christianity before the court investigating him.

In more modern culture George is famed for the legend that he slayed a dragon. That emerged as the most popular image we now have of him. But that legend didn't develop until the eighth century, five hundred years after his death. 

George's popularity as a saint grew with the Crusades in the twelfth century. He became the patron saint of soldiers and Richard I called on him for protection before the third Crusade in 1187. A red cross on a white background became the colours of the crusaders and eventually recognised as England's national flag.

Edward III made St George England's patron saint in 1347. And Shakespeare added a lustrous gloss to his reputation in the speech he ascribed to Henry V before the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Henry V told his army that St George was their powerful ally in the famous words: "Follow your spirit; and upon this charge, Cry, 'God for Harry, England and Saint George!"