Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy St. George's Day!

St. George is the patron saint of England and St. George's Day is celebrated on April 23rd. In honor of all my British ancestors, I present a few facts about St. George. It's also my mom's birthday so "Happy Birthday, Mom!" 

St. George wasn't English and there is so much mythology surrounding him that it is hard to distinguish actual facts. The best guess is that St. George was born in modern-day Turkey in the 3rd century. The story is that his parents were Christian and after his father died, George's mother moved back to her native Palestine, taking George with her. George became a soldier in the Roman army. Emperor Docletian began a campaign against the Christians at the beginning of the 4th century. Legend has it that George resigned from the army and tore up the Emperor's order against Christians in protest. George was thrown in prison and tortured but he refused to deny his faith. Eventually he was dragged through the streets and beheaded. 

The story of St. George slaying a dragon originated in the 15th century. As entertaining as it is, it must be relegated to the realm of mythology. 

St. George began to be linked to England during the Crusades. One story that is recorded in stone over the south door of a church at Fordington, Dorset, tells of his miraculous appearance and leading crusaders into battle. When Edward III founded the Order of the Garter, he assigned St. George to be its patron saint. St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII as the chapel of the order. Since that time St. George has been regarded as a special protector of the English. 

St. George Chapel Windsor, England

The flag of St. George is a red cross on a white background and is incorporated into the Union Jack. 

In 1940 King George VI inaugurated the George Cross for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger." The award is usually awarded to civilians. It depicts St. George slaying the dragon on a silver cross. 
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