How did a man born in Cappadocia in AD 270 become the patron saint of England? Here are 10 fantastic facts about Saint George.
As the nation celebrates St George’s Day, here are 10 things you might not know about England’s patron saint.
1. St George’s Day takes place on 23 April, which is traditionally accepted as being the date of his death in AD 303.
2. St George was beheaded for resigning his military post and protesting against his pagan leader, the Emperor Diocletian (245-313 AD), who led Rome’s persecution of Christians.
3. The Emperor’s wife was so inspired by St George’s bravery and loyalty to his religion, that she too became a Christian and was subsequently executed for her faith.
4. Before the cult of St George was brought back from the Crusades, the top choice for England’s patron saint was Edmund the Martyr, one of the Whuffings, East Anglia’s ruling family. Edmund is also the patron saint of pandemics, torture victims, and wolves.
5. St George is the Patron Saint of Scouting and on the Sunday nearest to 23 April scouts and guides throughout England parade through the streets.
6. His emblem, a red cross on a white background was adopted by Richard The Lionheart and brought to England in the 12th century, when the king’s soldiers would wear it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.
7. Aside from England, other countries that celebrate St George’s Day include Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia.
8. Though celebrations are somewhat muted in modern times, Englishmen can still be seen to mark St George’s Day with quintessentially British traditions, such as Morris Dancing (as in the video above), eating fish and chips or watching a Punch and Judy puppet show.
9. The most famous legend of St George is of him slaying a dragon, with the dragon commonly used to represent the Devil in the Middle Ages. The slaying of the dragon by St George was first credited to him in the 12th century, long after his death and it is therefore likely that the many stories connected with St George’s name are fictitious.
10. The date of 23 April was also the date of the death of the English playwright William Shakespeare. UNESCO marked this historic date by declaring it the International Day of the Book and it is also traditionally when Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated.