Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Yesterday was St George's Day

Classic image of Saint George on his white charger
slaying the dragon
Yesterday I met my mother and father for lunch. One of the local shops was flying the flag of St George and Mum commented, "They like to make a lot of St George's Day in Pinner." (She went on to say, "But they had the wheelbarrow race on Saturday," - which left me puzzled. Wasn't St George mounted on a horse, I don't remember anything about wheelbarrows!)
Anyhow, it came as a surprise to learn it was St George's Day and it seems I'm not alone. Apparently, we English are reknown for our lethargy when it comes to celebrating the national saint's day. So to redress the balance, here are some facts about St George.

St George by Raphael
- In 1350 King Edward III named George as England's Patron Saint, when he formed the Order of the Garter in Saint George's name.

- George is attributed with killing the dragon on the appropriately named, Dragon Hill in Uffinton, Berkshire. Legend has it that no grass will grow where the dragon's blood was spilt (hmm, perhaps a dragon was slain in my back garden.)

- It is unlikely George actually slayed a dragon, (indeed it is unlikely George even set foot in England) but he was first credited with doing this in the 12th century. In the Middle Ages the Devil was commonly represented as a dragon, so one explanation could be that the legend was a figurtive story of good vs evil.

- Another explanation for the story of George, on a white horse, killing the dragon, is that it was a christianisation of the Greek legend of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from a sea monster near Lydda.
Saint George by Peter Paul Rubens
- could almost be a zombie in there somewhere...
- Debate rages as to who George was, but the most likely explanation is that he was born in Cappadocia, Turkey and was a high-ranking officer in the Roman army. The Emperor Diocletian tortured George to make him deny his faith in Christ, but he wouldn't capitulate and as result was beheaded near Lydda in Palestine. The church in Rome bearing his name is said to contain his severed head.

- Apart from withstanding torture for his faith, the religious acts attributed to George are scarce. In fact, Pope Gelasius described him thus:
"... whose name is rightly reverenced amongst us, but whose actions are known only to God."
Tintoretto's versiou of Saint George
-And finally, one person who had more cause than most to remember the date of St George's day was William Shakespeare. Reputedly, the great baird was born on  (1564), and also died on (1614), St George's day.

So - did you remember St George's day, or like me, did you forget...or were you too busy racing wheelbarrows (really must ask my Mum about that one!)

And this is our very own dragon (of the Bearded variety)-
strictly no dragon slaying in our house ...only feeding, bathing
and cuddles!

1 comment:

  1. I had to laugh at the smallness of the dragon that St. George slayed. Concidering how big they are usually portrayed I was expecting something at least the size of his horse! Lol
    Here in America, us non-catholoics usually only celebrate St. Patrick's Day - a day to drink and be Irish - and think that is it. As a pagan I also tend to celebrate All Saints's Day, simply because it is the new year to us. The night before being the thinning of the veil between the living and the dead.

    Otherwise here saint days aren't nationally recognized.

    Do find out about the wheel barrow races. Please. Would be an interesting follow up.


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