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Did St. George slay a dragon, crocodile or demon?

Saint George

Everett Collection | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 04/24/21

St. George may have slain a crocodile as well as assisted in driving out demonic forces.

St. George is famous for slaying a dragon, and while many are content with it being a fanciful myth, there may be some truth behind it.

Dragons mentioned in medieval stories are usually taken by modern readers as symbols of evil, such as the dragon in the book of Revelation. Yet, some believe these stories may have also been influenced by the discovery of dinosaur fossils or tales of creatures such as the crocodile.

Considering that many of these dragon stories originated in the Middle East and Northern Africa (and that crocodiles there can grow up to 20 feet long), it may be possible that some of these saints really did kill a “dragon” that was threatening the townspeople. Frequently these ancient stories mention dragons that live near the river or a different body of water and provide further evidence that the dragon may have been a crocodile.

Such is the case with St. George.

St. George and the crocodile

George was a Roman military officer of the 3rd century, and the story of his fight with a dragon is best known as it is described in the Golden Legend.

George, a native of Cappadocia, held the military rank of tribune. It happened that he once traveled to the city of Silena in the province of Lybia. Near this town there was a pond as large as a lake where a plague-bearing dragon lurked; and many times the dragon had put the populace to flight when they came out armed against him, for he used to come up to the city walls and poison everyone who came within reach of his breath. To appease the fury of this monster the townspeople fed him two sheep every day … But George, mounting his horse and arming himself with the sign of the cross, set bravely upon the approaching dragon and, commending himself to God, brandished his lance, dealt the beast a grievous wound, and forced him to the ground.

A similar story is told about St. Martha in the Golden Legend.

At that time, in the forest along the Rhone between Aries and Avignon, there was a dragon that was half animal and half fish, larger than an ox, longer than a horse, with teeth as sharp as horns and a pair of bucklers on either side of his body. This beast lurked in the river, killing all those who tried to sail by and sinking their vessels.

Whenever a saint (such as St. George) is credited with slaying a dragon, a crocodile (or an ancient dinosaur, whichever one you prefer) appears to be the most likely candidate .

He may have also helped the town expel an evil spirit that tormented them, as he went into battle “arming himself with the sign of the cross.”

The devil and his demons hate the sign of the cross, as many exorcists can attest. They flee whenever they see it, and so St. George could have been both a physical warrior and a spiritual one.

It’s important to remember that myths and legends aren’t always entirely false. Often there is some truth behind them.


Read more:
These saints were professional dragon-slayers


Read more:
Did you know St. Martha became a dragon-slayer?

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