10 things you didn’t know about St George’s Day
- Credit: Ian Burt
St George's Day is marked on April 23 with beer festivals, Morris dancing, village fetes and fish-and-chip suppers.
But how much do you really know about England's patron saint?
We've put together this list of 10 facts about the Christian martyr and the day that celebrates him which may surprise you.
1. St George was, according to legend, a Roman soldier of Greek origin who lived from about 275AD to 303AD. The emperor Diocletian condemned him to die for failing to give up his Christianity.
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2. However, St George's courage and stubbornness in the face of Diocletian's efforts to have him recant the faith left quite an impression on the emperor's wife, Alexandra of Rome. After the soldier's death, she too became a Christian and was subsequently executed.
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2. One myth, which dates back to the fifth century, tells of St George recovering from his fatal wounds three times. This included one occasion when he was chopped into many pieces and buried.
3. The myth of St George slaying the dragon came from the Eastern Orthodox Church, and was brought back with the crusaders. The slaying was first credited to him in the 12th century, and the dragon usually represented the Devil in the Middle Ages.
4. St George's red cross emblem probably originated in Genoa, and was adopted by Richard The Lionheart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king's soldiers started to wear it on their tunics to identify themselves in battle.
5. Some calls have been made to replace St George as England's patron saint with someone who actually had a connection to the country. Suggestions for possible replacements have included Cuthbert of Lindisfarne and Saint Alban, the first recorded British Christian martyr.
6. Another contender to be a replacement patron saint is Edmund the Martyr, who belonged to East Anglia's ruling family, the Whuffings. Legend says Edmund, once king of the region, was executed by the Viking Great Heathen Army on the orders of Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba.
7. St George's Day has been celebrated by the Scouting movement on April 23 since its first years, and St George is the patron saint of many other organisations.
8. St George is also patron saint of agricultural workers, archers, armourers, cavalry, chivalry, farmers, knights, lepers, saddle makers, sheep and soldiers, as well as host of other countries and regions, including, of course, the country of Georgia.
9. Historian Edward Gibbon argued that St George, or at least the legends around him, were based on George of Cappadocia, a notorious Arian bishop, and that it was he who eventually became St George of England.