The Story Behind St. George, the Patron Saint of England

Recognised annually on the 23rd April, St. George’s Day is a former national holiday in which the people of England celebrate their patron saint. From the history behind the legendary figure, to the way in which he is celebrated, here is everything you need to know about St George, the patron saint of England!

Who was St. George?

Little is known about St George’s life, however it is believed amongst historians that he was born around AD 280, in where is now known as Cappadocia, Turkey, to a wealthy Christian family. He later went on to become a soldier in the Roman army under Emperor Diocletian, however was killed on April 23rd in AD 303 for refusing to denounce his Christianity.

As well as an unwavering dedication to his faith, St. George is equally famous for the legend that claims he slayed a dragon that was terrorising a small village in Libya. The story states that in order to appease the dragon, the villagers were feeding it their sheep. But when they ran out of sheep they then had to sacrifice themselves instead. Eventually the princess’ name was drawn, however St. George was riding by and managed to slay the dragon, freeing her and the rest of the village.

Why did St. George become the Patron Saint of England?

St. George wasn’t actually born in England, so what makes him the country’s patron saint?

A patron saint simply needs to embody the characteristics that a country wants to project. As stories of St. George’s bravery had spread throughout Europe, King Edward III thought of him as the perfect embodiment for the strengthened English monarchy he was trying to achieve. In 1348, Edward established The Order of the Garter, a group of honourable knights, in St. George’s name and subsequently made him the patron saint of England.

St. George’s Legacy

After his death, St. George rapidly became celebrated, particularly in Christian countries as an example of bravery. He has been immortalised in a number of Shakespeare plays, there are countless churches named after him and the St. George’s cross still flies on multiple flags across the world to this very day.

How is St. George’s Day celebrated?

Similarly to other saint’s days, St George’s Day is usually celebrated with festivals, parades, drinking and dancing. In England, there are village fairs, re-enactments of George slaying the dragon and Morris dancing, a form of folk dancing. St George is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece and many other countries too. Each country has a unique way of celebrating. In Catalonia, for example, it is more of a romantic holiday in which people gift roses and books to their loved ones. Other festivities around the world include roasting lambs, lighting fires and decorating houses with flowers and sticks.

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