HE’s the patron saint of England and famously sleighed a dragon, but not many people can tell you much more about Saint George.
We celebrate his legendary life on Saint George’s Day later this month, here’s what you need to know.
What is Saint George’s Day and when is it?
The feast day of Saint George is celebrated by various Christian Churches and several countries and cities where Saint George is the patron saint – including England.
The day is celebrated on April 23 each year and this is the date traditionally accepted of his death in AD 303.
Who was Saint George and where did the legend of the dragon come from?
Although Saint George is England’s patron saint, George would likely have been a soldier somewhere in the eastern Roman Empire, probably in what is now Turkey – If he ever existed.
He is also the patron saint of: Ethiopia, Georgia and Portugal, and cities such as Freiburg, Moscow and Beirut.
According to legend, George was martyred for his faith under Emperor Diocletian in the early fourth century, and there is a major shrine dedicated to him in Lod, Israel.
The earliest legend that features Saint George slaying a dragon dates to the 11th century.
The tale may have started simply as a way to symbolise the triumph of good over evil.
But, the well-known story mainly comes down to the Golden Legend – a popular collection of saints’ lives written in the 13th century.
According to one version of the story, a town in Libya had a small lake inhabited by a dragon infected with the plague.
Many of the townsfolk were being killed by the dragon so they started feeding it two sheep a day to appease it.
When the town ran out of sheep, legend has it that the king devised a lottery system to feed the hungry dragon local children instead.
But, one day his own daughter was chosen and as she was being led down to the lake Saint George happened to ride past.
The story goes that George offered to slay the dragon but only if the people converted to Christianity.
They did, and the king later built a church where the dragon was slain.
Are there any Saint George’s Day traditions?
In the past, a traditional custom on Saint George’s day was to wear a red rose in your lapel – but not many people practise this anymore.
More popular customs include flying the Saint George’s Cross flag, with English pubs often seen adorning their establishment with flags.
In cathedrals, churches and chapels on Saint George’s Day it is common for the hymn “Jerusalem” to be sung.