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Patronal festival

April 23, 2010

It is likely that St. George was born to a noble Christian family in Palestine in the late 3rd century, between AD 275 and 285. By age 14 both of his parents had died, and he entered into the personal service of Diocletian, by age 20 becoming a member of the emperor’s personal guard. When, in AD 302, Diocletian ordered that every Christian solider in the Roman army should be killed and that every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the gods, George objected and approached the emperor, who became distressed at the prospect of having to execute one of his closest and most favored officers. Despite offers of slaves, land, and wealth (which he already had), George remained steadfast in faith, and Diocletian indeed had him tortured and executed – by decapitation – on April 23, 303, outside the city wall of Nicomedia.

In AD 494, he was canonized by Pope Gelasius I, as one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to [God].” He is venerated as a Christian martyr and is the patron saint of England, Russia, Greece, Georgia (obviously), Aragon and Catalonia in Spain, Lithuania, Ethiopia, Palestine, and Portugal.

The story of St. George and the Dragon, by which George is best known, is Eastern in origin and was brought back to continental Europe and England by Crusaders returning from the Holy Land. As Wikipedia tells it,

In the fully-developed Western version, which developed as part of the Golden Legend, a dragon makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of ‘Silene’ (perhaps modern Cyrene) in Libya or the city of Lydda, depending on the source. Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep can be found, then a maiden must go instead of the sheep. The victim is chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She is offered to the dragon, but there appears Saint George on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the cross, slays the dragon, and rescues the princess. The grateful citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity. In the medieval romances, the lance with which St George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, named after the city of Ashkelon in Israel.

The “Colours of St. George”, or the St. George’s Cross – a red cross on a solid white background, blazoned Argent a cross gules – have been identified with the saint since medieval times and are incorporated into the arms of many countries of which St. George is patron. The Colours have become the standard of both England and the Church of England, and they form the backbone of the flag of the Episcopal Church, which reminds us in this New World of our estimable links with the Old.

Leonidas Polk, the Confederate General and Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, incorporated the St. George’s Cross into the battle flag of the First Corps, Army of Tennessee (below). A white fimbriation separates the cross from the blue field, and white stars representing the Confederate states are placed on the red cross.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    July 26, 2012 22:28


    Bishop-General Leonidas Polk used the flag shown as his Corps flag, not regimental. It is the second issue, whereas the first was large, silk, and left out the white stripes, and has 13 stars.


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