George is thought to have been a soldier in the fourth century who courageously defended his faith and encouraged his fellow Christians. For this, he suffered martyrdom by beheading under Diocletian. He was a popular saint in the East.
By the sixth century St. George had become an ideal Christian knight, and the legend of his slaying the dragon had become a familiar story. George’s fame spread to Europe, where stained glass windows from the seventh and eighth centuries depicted this legend.
The story tells of a dragon that terrorized the land and poisoned with its breath all who approached it. The dragon was fed sheep and then human beings chosen by lot. The day the king’s daughter was to be served to the dragon, George came along. He slew the dragon and was offered anything he wanted for killing it. George refused any reward, but he made the king promise to build churches, honor priests, and show compassion to the poor. This act made George so popular that he came to reflect all the ideals of Christian chivalry.
When the English king Richard I led his soldiers in the Crusades, he placed his army under George’s protection. In one famous battle, the Christians were losing until, as the army leaders later insisted, St. George rode forward and led the troops to victory. From then on, George became the patron of England. King Edward III founded an order of knights under his patronage, and his feast was kept as a national festival.
Although the stories of St. George may be untrue, no one can deny his real act of heroism: dying for Christ.
from Saints Kit
Image credit: Portrait of Saint George by Carlo Crivelli, 1472. Public Domain via Wikimedia.