St George

St George is regarded across Europe as one of Antiquity’s greatest heroes. There are statues of him in Moscow, where he is the patron saint of the city, and the country of Georgia bears his name. In Catalonia, in Spain, his feast day on the 23rd of April is widely celebrated, and he has been the patron saint of England since the thirteenth century.
In spite of this popularity little is known about his life. The work describing his deeds – the “Acta Sancti Georgii” – was very ancient, but it was banned by the Pope in 496 AD, and only a fragment remains. The Christian Church had claimed St George as a religious martyr, and it seems likely that these tales clashed with the image it wished to present.
However, although his birthplace and nationality were forgotten, the memory of his courage and great heartedness is preserved in this account of his most famous deed

One day, so the story goes, St George was riding along a stretch of coast when he saw a lovely maiden. She was all alone and weeping bitterly. At the sound of the horse’s hooves, she turned and begged the young knight to flee, for soon a dragon would emerge from the waters, and both of them would be destroyed.
   “I cannot fly and leave you here,” said St George.
   As he spoke the waves began to rise, and he heard cries and shrieks from the city in the distance.
   “Please, the dragon is coming,” cried the maiden. “Every year lots are drawn, and a young girl is chosen to be killed and eaten by the monster. In return it does not attack our city. This year the lot has fallen on me – the king’s daughter.”
   As she spoke the waves towered upwards, and a great serpent rose from the sea. It flew at St George, and he felt the heat of the flames that came from its mouth.
   Seizing his sword, Ascalon, he pierced it in the tender part of its body, and the wound was so deep that the dragon stood still.
   “Undo your sash and tie it about its neck,” said St George to the princess. “It will not harm you. Then lead it with me to the market place.”
   The Princess obeyed, and the dragon followed, powerless to resist.
   Then, before all the people of the city, St George slew the monster who had terrorised them for so long, and restored them their peace and liberty.


~Bethan Lewis~


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