St. George's Day (1)

England’s patron saint is oft depicted slaying a dragon, and there is small hill in the Vale of the White Horse where legend has it that he performed this deed. He was not, however, English, and probably never even visited the place. George was actually a 4th-century Roman solider serving in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, a tyrant (dragon) who butchered every Christian he could find. This didn’t sit well with George, who objected to the practice and resigned from the army. That didn’t sit well with Diocletian, who had George tortured and beheaded (April 23rd, 303).
Having been the patron saint of soldiers since 1098, when he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army at the Battle of Antioch, George became the patron saint of the Knights of the Garter, an order of chivalry established by the English king, Edward III in 1348. By the end of the fourteenth century George was also the patron saint of England itself.
Thinking of knights and dragons is but a small step to thinking about the most famous knights of all, those of King Arthur’s Round Table, and on Friday, we will be taking a step sideways to Arthurian times with author Nancy Bell, who just happens to have entitled her book, A Step Sideways.
On another note, St. George’s Day is also the day on which the birthday of the famous English playwright, William Shakespeare, is celebrated. His actual date of birth is not known, but since he died on April 23rd, the powers that be decided the 23rd would for his birthday as well. Records show he was baptized on April 26, 1564, so, close enough. Besides, he was a St. George fan. St. George is referred to in one of his plays (Henry V, Act III):
The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’



  1. Saint George, one of my favourite subjects! I drew a Roman Saint George, in which I depicted the dragon-slaying saint as a Roman cavalryman.

  2. And a Roman cavalryman was what he was. He probably wasn’t ever in England, although I used to live near the Vale of the White Horse, where he supposedly ‘slew’ his dragon. There is a spot down one side of Dragon hill where nothing will grow (and, trust me, it doesn’t) because that’s said to be where the dragon’s blood ran down. Is there somewhere we could take a look at your St. George?

    1. The link I posted in my previous comment should go right to my Roman Saint George in my RedBubble portfolio.

      It’s funny how legends get transplanted from one region to another. I know one version of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon says the saint slew the dragon in “Silene”, in Libya.

      Supposing that the real George might have met a real creature like a crocodile, one of my first Saint George artworks featured a rather crocodilian dragon:

  3. And it did indeed go right there. Sorry, my brain obviously wasn’t in gear. I read the words of the post without noticing the rest! Thanks.

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