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St George - Patron Saint Of England

Updated on February 17, 2016
A St George's Day parade in England
A St George's Day parade in England | Source

Saint George The Dragon Slayer: Patron Saint Of England!

Saint George is the patron saint of England and is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity. St George's Day is celebrated on 23rd April.

Saint George is known throughout the world as a martyr who died for his Christian faith and as a "soldier saint" who represents the knightly values of chivalry. There are many legends of the life of St George including the famous tale of St George and the Dragon and he has come to symbolise the triumph of good over evil.

The Flag of England is the Cross of St George - a red cross on a white background which has come to symbolise English national pride and patriotism!

Here's a closer look at the life of Saint George, how he became England's patron saint and the ways in which English people celebrate St George's Day! There's also a poll seeking opinions on whether St George's Day (23rd April) should be a national holiday in England.

St George Trivia!

As well as being the Patron Saint of England, St George is also the patron saint of many other countries including Ethiopia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Palestine, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia!

St George, patron of England, on the rood screen at St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough
St George, patron of England, on the rood screen at St Mary the Virgin, Wellingborough | Source

Who Was St George?

St George was a Roman soldier born in Turkey in the 3rd century AD, who became a Christian martyr.

St George is believed to have been born in Cappadocia in what is now Turkey in the 3rd century into a noble Christian family. His father was an official in the Roman army and George followed in his father's footsteps and became a soldier. George quickly became noted for his virtuous character, handsome physique and outstanding valour. There are many legends of his military skill and bravery, including the famous tale of St George and the Dragon!

George speedily rose through the ranks of the Roman army and became an officer in charge of a regiment of over a thousand men. His outstanding deeds impressed the Roman Emperor Diocletian and George became one of his favourites.

Emperor Diocletian ruled over Rome during a period of civil unrest and he attempted to control his people by means of a strict regime of discipline against anyone who broke his laws. He was also a Pagan who believed in reviving ancient Roman traditions. He felt that the rise of Christianity was contributing to to the civil unrest and when he became aware of an alleged Christian plot to assassinate his second in command, he ordered that all Christian churches should be destroyed and that all Christians should be forced to renounce their religion - the penalty for not doing so was death.

As a Christian himself, George did his best to use his position and authority to help the persecuted Christians which not surprisingly incurred the anger of Diocletian. Despite his personal liking for George and his admiration for him as a talented and brave soldier, Diocletian ordered George's arrest and insisted that he renounce his Christian faith.

George was summoned to appear in public in the presence of Diocletian and rather than save himself by agreeing to the Emperor's demands, he sealed his fate by making an impassioned and eloquent public speech criticising Diocletian for his persecution of Christians. In response, Diocletian imprisoned George with orders that he be tortured until he renounced his faith.

George bravely suffered the torture but steadfastly refused to denounce his religion and he was sentenced to death.

George was beheaded on 23rd of April 303.

George became venerated as a Christian martyr and was canonised as a Saint in the year 494.

"The Execution of Saint George" by Altichiero c.1380

"The Execution of Saint George" by Altichiero da Verona c.1380 - Fresco from Oratorio di San Giorgio, Padua
"The Execution of Saint George" by Altichiero da Verona c.1380 - Fresco from Oratorio di San Giorgio, Padua | Source
Arms of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
Arms of the Most Noble Order of the Garter | Source

Why Is Saint George The Patron Saint Of England?

How St George became the patron saint of England

By the time of the Crusades, the tales of St George had spread to Europe. It is said that King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) had a vision of Saint George who promised the English forces victory and from then on St George's emblem of a red cross against a white background became worn as an English military symbol.

During the medieval period, the tales of St George became increasingly popular and the brave, handsome and noble St George was seen as the embodiment of the knightly values of Chivalry.

On 23 April 1344 King Edward III founded The Order of the Garter, a "a society, fellowship and college of knights" which was dedicated to St George and which sought (and still does to this day!) to uphold the virtues embodied by St George.

In 1415 the victory of the English army against the French at the Battle of Agincourt marked the adoption of Saint George as England's Patron Saint, replacing Saint Edmund the Martyr.

St George, the Patron Saint of England - stained glass at a church in Salisbury, England showing detail of St George
St George, the Patron Saint of England - stained glass at a church in Salisbury, England showing detail of St George | Source

The Flag of England: The St George's Cross - The English flag is a red cross on a white background

The flag of England is the St George's Cross (Cross of St George)
The flag of England is the St George's Cross (Cross of St George) | Source
The Union Flag and the flag of England - the Union Flag (Union Jack) incorprates the Cross of St George to represent England and Wales
The Union Flag and the flag of England - the Union Flag (Union Jack) incorprates the Cross of St George to represent England and Wales | Source

The St George's Cross is a red centred cross on a white background (in heraldry it's described as: "Argent, a cross gules").

Also known as The Cross of St George, the emblem has been associated with Saint George since medieval times. According to BritishFlag.us it's association as a symbol of England began when:

"...the Pope made the decision that English crusaders would wear a white cross on red, French crusaders a red cross on white and Italian crusaders a yellow cross on white. The English traded with their rivals, the French in January of 1188, so that they could don the red cross with white background."

Along with the emblems of other saints, the Cross of St George appeared on English flags during the Middle Ages and according to the Wikipedia article Flag of England it:

"...achieved the full status of national flag in the sixteenth century, when all other saints' banners were abandoned during the Reformation."

The St George's Cross is incorporated into the Union Flag (sometimes referred to as the Union Jack) - the flag of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and stands for both England and Wales (this is because at the time the flag was designed, Wales was part of the Kingdom of England!)

Book: "Saint George and the Dragon" by Geraldine McCaughrean
Book: "Saint George and the Dragon" by Geraldine McCaughrean | Source

St George And The Dragon

St George The Dragon Slayer - the most well known legend of St George recounts how he killed a dragon and rescued a Princess!

The legend of St George and the Dragon was brought to Europe by the Crusaders and the first known written version of the tale dates back to the 11th Century.

There are several variants of the legend but the most common elements are that a city was being terrorised by a dragon who dwelled in a nearby cave. To appease the dragon, the people of the town gave it their sheep and other domestic animals, but when there were no more animals left they were forced to feed it their children chosen by lottery. Only the daughter of the King was exempt. When all the children had been eaten by the dragon, the people grew angry and demanded that the Princess suffer the same fate as their own children. In desperation, the King offered money and jewels in exchange for her life, but the people dragged the young Princess away and left her tied to a tree near the dragon's cave to await her doom.

By chance, St George happened to ride past on his white horse and seeing the terrified girl, attempted to release her just as the dragon emerged from it's cave. Making the sign of the Cross, St George fought the dragon and after a fierce battle, slew it. He freed the Princess and cutting off the dragon's head, he triumphantly rode into the city. Presenting the head of the monster to the people and reuniting the King with his daughter, the grateful populace allowed George to baptise them all as Christians and built a church on the site of the dragon's lair.

The legend of St George and the Dragon

"Saint George Slaying the Dragon" by Jost Haller(c. 1410-1485?), Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France
"Saint George Slaying the Dragon" by Jost Haller(c. 1410-1485?), Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France | Source

St George Trivia!

The date of St George's day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England's calendar, when St George's Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter!

Source: Wikipedia

England flags
England flags | Source

Celebrating St George's Day In England

April 23rd is St George's Day!

St George's Day used to be a national holiday in England. It was as important a feast day as Christmas!

But not everyone was happy with such festivities! According to the Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, in 1552 the spoilsport Bishop of London tried to put a stop to all the fun:

"...wher as it hathe bene of ane olde costome that sent Gorge shulde be kepte holy day thorrow alle Englond, the byshoppe of London commandyd that it shulde not be kepte..."

Sadly, his wishes came true and slowly but surely, the English people stopped the national celebration of St George's Day with only a few places such as the city of Salisbury keeping the tradition alive :(

However St George was not entirely forgotten...in 1894 The Royal Society of St George was founded:

"...with the noble object of promoting "Englishness" and the English way of life..."

In recent years, more and more English people have started expressing a desire to once again mark St George's Day by reviving old customs and expressing their patriotic pride in their country. MPs started to press for St George's Day to be made a national holiday in England and in 2009, Boris Johnson the Mayor of London, fronted a campaign to revive St George's Day celebrations resulting in a St George's Day Pageant being held in the City of London in 2010, after a hiatus of 425 years!

How the English celebrate St George's Day!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square.St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square.St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square.Saint George and the Turk fighting in a mummers play performed by the Waterley Bottom Mummers at Wotton-under-Edge, England, for St. George's Day.Celebrating St George's Day in Fengate, Peterborough
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square.
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square. | Source
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square.
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square. | Source
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square.
St George's Day in Nottingham's Old Market Square. | Source
Saint George and the Turk fighting in a mummers play performed by the Waterley Bottom Mummers at Wotton-under-Edge, England, for St. George's Day.
Saint George and the Turk fighting in a mummers play performed by the Waterley Bottom Mummers at Wotton-under-Edge, England, for St. George's Day. | Source
Celebrating St George's Day in Fengate, Peterborough
Celebrating St George's Day in Fengate, Peterborough | Source

England & St George - A video montage of images of Saint George and England

Music: "Jerusalem" by Fat Les!

"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot;

Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,

Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!'

— Henry V, Act III, Scene I by William Shakespeare

David Cameron & Boris Johnson Celebrate St George's Day - Some English people make quite an effort to celebrate St George's Day!

(Future) Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson celebrate St George's Day 2010......

"Cry God for England, custard and St George!"

POLL: Should Saint George's Day Be Celebrated More In England? - Should Saint George's Day be celebrated with a bit more enthusiasm in England?

For decades now, St George's Day has tended to pass by in England without much happening.

Many English people feel that this is wrong and there is now an active campaign to raise the profile of St George's Day and to encourage more people to celebrate the feast day of our Patron Saint and to show pride in our national identity!

Other countries celebrate their national Saints days with a vengeance - think of the Irish and St Patrick's Day!!!!

Yet every year in England, the 23rd of April seems to come and go with not much more than a passing reference to St George! There are a few local celebrations but nothing on a national level.

What do YOU think about how English people should mark our national saint's day?:

Should we get out there and show more pride in St George and the fact that we are English?

See results
St George Costume (adult)
St George Costume (adult) | Source

St George Costume

Dress as St George for a St George's Day Parade or Party!

St George Costume

  • Costume includes:
  • Metallic chain-mail style headpiece
  • Black arm cuffs
  • Knee-length white top with red St. George's cross and attached red cape
  • Leather effect belt
  • * Sword and shield not supplied

St Georges Day Celebrations! - St Georges Day celebrations in 2011 included a medieval knight battle at Bolsover Castle!

St George's Day 2012 in Yorkshire - The town of Morley in West Yorkshire staged a whole weekend of patriotic English events to mark St George's Day in 2012 - ev

© 2010 LouiseKirkpatrick

St George's Guestbook - Do you celebrate St George's Day? Tell us how here - or just pop in to say hello, everyone's welcome!

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    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 4 years ago from England

      What a fabulous lens about our patron Saint. I have learnt loads from your page! Thank you! This is what LOTD is all about and it's such a shame this wasn't chosen today... maybe next year ;)

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 4 years ago

      Hi, what a really informative and interesting lens. The Olympics are creating a certain amount of identity dissonance though LOL so we have Union Flags and St George flags in cupboards for the appropriate occasion. August 2012 is definitely a team GB moment though. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Scouting celebrates St George's Day every year - as St George is also the Patron Saint of Scouting. This year, in Nottingham alone, over 800 Beavers, Cubs and Scouts paraded from the Castle to the Old Market Square - with a parade headed by St George, the Dragon and and Notts Constabulary Pipe band. Nottingham is not alone. Scouts throughout the UK also celebrate. frequently with a similar parade. Long may it continue

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

      "Keep calm and have a cupcake." Words to live by. I agree. This should have been LOTD today!

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 5 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Many congratulations on the very well deserved Purple Star. For Harry, England and Saint George as someone might have said :-)

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image
      Author

      LouiseKirkpatrick 5 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      @TonyPayne: Thanks so much poddys - Happy St George's Day :)

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image
      Author

      LouiseKirkpatrick 5 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      @Heather426: Personal sidenotes are always welcome! Remembering your father, St George and William Shakespeare on this day :)

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image
      Author

      LouiseKirkpatrick 5 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      @MaggiePowell: It's one of those timeless tales that captures the imagination of children - little boys love to be St George!

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image
      Author

      LouiseKirkpatrick 5 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      @pkmcruk: Happy St George's Day Paul - and a BIG thank you for publicising this lens :)

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

      Good for you and for Paul for waving the flag today... and yes, why isn't this LOTD?

      England, Custard, and St George sounds like something well worth celebrating. Though I'm exiled in these wild lands north of the border, you've given me a reminder of home. Angel dust sprinkles for your bowl of best M&S custard today.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      What an excellent lens on Saint George. It's a shame this could not have been Lens Of The Day today, it truly deserves it. Wonderful, blessed.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 5 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Fantastic lens, and if you'll allow a personal sidenote, my father was George Gardner, and he died on April 23, 2005! He was descended from English royalty, so I think it very fitting for him to leave on the day of St. George. 7 years and still missing him.

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      Love the story of St George and the Dragon.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 5 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Happy St George's Day!

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      Our dear allotment secretary raises the union flag atop the allotment shop shed...Quietly glancing up at the flag fluttering against a clear blue sky last year whilst sowing my lettuce seeds was strangely magical. Angel blessings to you and St. George.

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 5 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      I try to wave the flag, even though I'm in the States right now. Blessed by a proud Englishman :)

    • MamaBelle profile image

      Francis Luxford 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      YAY! Let's hear it for St. George! Nice Lens!

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 5 years ago from USA

      Love the red and white design on St. George merchandise!

    • profile image

      stgeorgesholiday 6 years ago

      The UK government are thinking about making St George's Day a bank holiday in England. Hooray! Check http://www.stgeorgesholiday.com/dcms

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Lensrolled to my 'Quiz - Saint George', Quiz - England' and 'Quiz - English and British History'.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Thumbs up

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