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The Catholic Defender: Saint George


The crusaders contributed a great deal to transforming the figure of St. George the martyr into a holy warrior, seeing in the killing of the dragon a symbol for the defeat of Islam; Richard I of England (“the Lionheart”) invoked him as the protector of all soldiers. With the Normans the cult of St. George became firmly rooted in England where, in 1348, King Edward III established the Order of the Knights of St. George. Throughout the Middle Ages his figure inspired a great deal of epic literature.


When George was old enough, he was welcomed into Diocletian's army. By his late 20's, George became a Tribunus and served as an imperial guard for the Emperor at Nicomedia.


On February 24, 303 A.D., Diocletian, who hated Christians, announced that every Christian the army passed would be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods.


George refused to abide by the order and told Diocletian, who was angry but greatly valued his friendship with George's father.


Saint George is thought to have been born into a noble Christian family in the late third century in what is now modern-day Turkey. As a soldier and officer in the Roman army, he refused to denounce his faith and persecute fellow Christians leading to his martyrdom in 303 AD.


Saint George is the object of a vast amount of imagination. There is every reason to believe that he was a real martyr who suffered at Lydda in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine. The Church adheres to his memory, but not to the legends surrounding his life. That he was willing to pay the supreme price to follow Christ is what the Church believes. And it is enough.


As the princess was being led to the dragon, Saint George happened to be passing by. He was horrified when he found out what had been happening and offered to slay the dragon to save the king's daughter.


The story of George’s slaying the dragon, rescuing the king’s daughter, and converting Libya is a 12th-century Italian fable. George was a favorite patron saint of crusaders, as well as of Eastern soldiers in earlier times. He is a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Catalonia, Genoa, Milan and Bologna.


Human nature seems to crave more than cold historical data. Americans have Washington and Lincoln, but we somehow need Paul Bunyan, too. The life of Saint Francis of Assisi is inspiring enough, but for centuries the Italians have found his spirit in the legends of the Fioretti, too. Santa Claus is the popular extension of the spirit of Saint Nicholas. The legends about Saint George are part of this yearning. Both fact and legend are human ways of illumining the mysterious truth about the One who alone is holy.


St George performed several miracles. Once, he prayed to the Lord over a man's grave and immediately the earth quaked and the grave opened; the man was raised from the dead. Those who witnessed this miracle immediately believed in Christ. Similarly, at another instance, there was a farmer whose only ox had died.

  • Saint George's Day, on 23 April, is a time of celebration in England. ...

  • He's everyone's friend. ...

  • He probably never visited England. ...

  • He wasn't England's first pick. ...

  • He (supposedly) had nine lives. ...

  • He shares his death date with William Shakespeare.

There are several stories about George fighting dragons, but in the Western version, a dragon or crocodile made its nest at a spring that provided water to Silene, believed to be modern-day Cyrene in Libya.


The people were unable to collect water and so attempted to remove the dragon from its nest on several ocassions. It would temporarily leave its nest when they offered it a sheep each day, until the sheep disappeared and the people were distraught.


This was when they decided that a maiden would be just as effective as sending a sheep. The townspeople chose the victim by drawing straws. This continued until one day the princess' straw was drawn.


The monarch begged for her to be spared but the people would not have it. She was offered to the dragon, but before she could be devoured, George appeared. He faced the dragon, protected himself with the sign of the Cross, and slayed the dragon.


After saving the town, the citizens abandoned their paganism and were all converted to Christianity.


George is a highly celebrated saint in both the Western and Eastern Christian churches, and many Patronages of Saint George exist throughout the world. George is the patron saint of England.


St George is considered the patron of knights, soldiers, scouts, fencers and archers, among others; he is also invoked against the plague and leprosy, and against venomous snakes.


During the Middle Ages, people believed that St George was one of the 'Fourteen Holy Helpers' – a group of saints who could help during epidemic diseases. St George's protection was invoked against several nasty diseases, many fatal and with infectious causes, including the Plague and leprosy.


Saint George came to be called on by Christians to aid them in battle and in time of great need, and upon victory churches were built to honor him. Festivals celebrating the ensuing victories became part of local traditions and led to increased devotion to him.


When George announced his beliefs before his peers, Diocletian was unable to keep the news to himself.


In an effort to save George, Diocletian attempted to convert him to believe in the Roman gods, offered him land, money and slaves in exchange for offering a sacrifice to the Roman gods, and made several other offers that George refused.


Finally, after exhausting all other options, Diocletian ordered George's execution. In preparation for his death, George gave his money to the poor and was sent for several torture sessions. He was lacerated on a wheel of swords and required resuscitation three times, but still George did not turn from God.


On April 23, 303 A.D., George was decapitated before Nicomedia's outer wall. His body was sent to Lydda for burial, and other Christians went to honor George as a martyr.

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