Martyr, d. ca. 303
+ Best known as the “Slayer of Dragons,” Saint George was a genuine martyr who died in Lydda (modern-day Lod in Israel) around the year 303. No other details of his life have survived.
+ In the Middle Ages, Saint George became one of the most popular saints and devotion to him is especially strong in the Eastern Church, where he is honored as “the Great Martyr.”
+ Saint George is also honored in the Islamic tradition as prophet.
+ The patron saint of England, Russia, Portugal, and Ethiopia, Saint George is also a patron saint of soldiers and of the Boy Scouts.
Saint George is among a group of saints that became known as the “Fourteen Holy Helpers.” Devotion to these “auxiliary” saints became popular during the Middle Ages and the saints were often invoked for protection against the plague and other illnesses.
Saint George in art
Saint George is most often depicted in the armor of a medieval knight slaying a dragon. This depiction of Saint George might have come from a misunderstanding by Crusaders who saw an image of the emperor Constantine slaying the devil that could once be seen in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey). In time, the maiden of George’s legend became a symbol for the Church and Saint George came to be seen as a heavenly defender of the Church’s freedom and purity. The cross of St. George, an equal-armed red cross often featured on his banner, is featured on the English flag and, combined with the X-shaped St. Andrew’s cross of Scotland, on the flag of Great Britain.
“Our joy in today’s feast is heightened by our joy in the glory of Easter… Truly, we must be cleansed of the stains of our past sins and be resplendent in the virtue of our new way of life. Then we can be confident of celebrating Easter worthily and of truly following the example of the blessed martyrs.”—Saint Peter Damian
Extolling your might, O Lord,
we humbly implore you,
that, as Saint George imitated the Passion of the Lord,
so he may lend us ready help in our weakness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.