This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 23 -- Feast of St. George

George was a soldier in Palestine, beheaded in AD 304, the second year of Diocletian's persecution. He grew up in Palestine but traveled Nicomedia (modern Turkey) while still a teenager to join the Roman army. This was no childish impulse -- both his parents had died and his best shot was to trade on his father's military service by enlisting. He did well in the army, eventually rising to the rank of Tribune in Diocletian's own guard.

In AD 303, the order went down to arrest all Christians in the military. George was busted, but Diocletian worked hard to win his apostasy. Promises of rich rewards were offered; threats of slow and painful death were made. All to no avail. Eventually he was perforated on a wheel of swords, passing out but being revived three times. Following this, he was beheaded.

That's the historical side of his life, more or less. At very least, he was a soldier in the Roman army executed during Diocletian's persecution. But that has little to do with the picture above.

According to his legend, there was a dragon (crocodile?) living in a well-spring in Libya, or maybe Lydda, in Palestine. Lydda makes more sense as George was born there, but Libya is more commonly stated. Anyway, people living in a desert need water, but the dragon needed to be sated before they could draw it. Thus, two sheep a day was the price of water. When they ran out of sheep, they settled on maidens. Why they'd go with young girls instead of the old and infirm, I can't say. Plainly, they weren't actuaries.

A princess was selected in a lottery, but rather than let a princess be eaten by a monster, George stepped up and killed the beast. Abundant versions, artistic renderings, and critical analyses with links to older legends can be found.


  1. How did he become the patron saint of the Anglican Church? His shield is the flag of the American Episcopalian Church. Thoughts?

  2. George's identification with England pre-dates the Anglican Church (as a separate entity). At least one source speculates that a couple missionaries named Arculpus and Adamnan brought his story to England in the eighth century. It may have been especially popular because it bore similarity to an Anglo-Saxon story (among others). By the eleventh century, there were churches dedicated to him. Crusaders adopted him after he appeared to them at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. Then Richard I put his crusading troops under George's banner, and from there, all England adopted him.

    In 1415, Archbishop Chichele ordered that St. George's Day be celebrated with a great feast, as big as Christmas. This seems to have continued until 1778, at least in some places.