Who is St. George?ST=Who is St. George
But of the man himself, nothing is certainly known. Our earliest source, Eusebius of Caesarea, writing c. 322, tells of a soldier of noble birth who was put to death under the orders of the Emperor Diocletian at Nicomedia (an ancient city of North West Asia Minor near the Bosphorus in present day Turkey) on 23 April, 303, but makes no mention of his name, his country or his place of burial. According to the apocryphal Acts of St George current in various versions in the Eastern Church from the fifth century, George held the rank of tribune in the Roman army and was beheaded by Diocletian for protesting against the Emperor's persecution of Christians. George rapidly became venerated throughout Christendom as an example of bravery in defense of the poor and the defenseless and of the Christian faith.
Saint George is a leading character in one of the greatest poems in the English language, Spencer's Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). St George appears in Book 1 as the Redcrosse Knight of Holiness, protector of the Virgin. In this guise he may also be seen as the Anglican church upholding the monarchy of Elizabeth I:
But on his breast a bloody Cross he bore
The legend of St George and the dragon took on a new lease of life during the Counter Reformation. The discoveries in Africa, India and the Americas, in areas which maps had previously shown as populated by dragons, presented vast new fields for Church missionary endeavour, and St George was once again invoked as an example of danger faced and overcome for the good of the Church. Meanwhile, the Protestant author, John Bunyan (1628-88), recalled the story of George and the Dragon in the account of the fight between Christian and Apollyon in Pilgrim's Progress (1679 and 1684).
In more modern times, St George was chosen by Baden-Powell, its founder, to be patron of the Scouting Movement, and on St George's Day, scouts are bidden to remember their Promise and the Scout Law. Baden-Powell recounted in Scouting for Boys that the Knights of the Round Table 'had as their patron saint St George because he was the only one of all the saints who was a horseman. He is the patron saint of cavalry, from which the word chevalier is derived'.
St George is still venerated in a large number of places, by followers of particular occupations and sufferers from certain diseases. George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to St Mark). He is patron of soldiers, cavalry and chivalry; of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers; of horses, riders and saddlers; and of sufferers from leprosy, plague and syphilis. He is particularly the patron saint of archers, which gives special point to these famous lines from Shakespeare's Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1, l. 31:
H.Delehaye, Les legendes grecques des saints militaires, Paris 1909
I.H.Elder, George of Lydda, 1949
E. Hoode, Guide to the Holy Land, Jerusalem 1962
G.J.Marcus, Saint George of England, 1939
Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend : Readings on the Saints, Tr. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)