Saint George is the patron saint of England.
The only thing that most people know about him is that he killed a dragon.
Nowadays, the only ways that the English remember St George is that the English flag (a red cross on a white background) is called the St George’s Cross and that there is also a St George’s day every year.
However, if you asked most of the English population “What day is St George’s Day?”, not many people would be able to tell you the correct date of April the 23rd.
So, let’s learn everything you need to know about Saint George… and then you will know much more than pretty much everyone in England!
Was Saint George an Englishman?
No. Saint George was Turkish. He was born in Cappadocia in 270 AD (the 3rd Century). He was a Christian and a soldier fighting for the Roman army. In fact, he never visited England in his lifetime.
Is St George's Day a national holiday in England?
No. It is only a national 'day', but not a holiday.
In Ireland, St Patrick's day is a national holiday. In fact, more people in England know about and celebrate St Patrick's Day, much more than they do for Saint George's Day. In Scotland, everyone takes the day off work for the national holiday of St Andrew. However, in England there is no free holiday for 23rd April.
In 1415, St George's Day became a national feast day and it used to be a holiday in England for about 300 years, but the tradition was stopped in the middle of the eighteenth Century.
When is Saint George's Day in England?
St George's Day is on April the 23rd in the United Kingdom.
But why is it on this day? Well, not much is known about George, but the few facts are...
After a childhood in Turkey, he became a Roman soldier and was promoted to a very high military rank of Tribune. However, he quit the army as a protest against the pagan Emperor Diocletian who was persecuting Christians. Diocletian offered George, money, land and slaves if George would offer a sacrifice to the pagan Gods, but George refused.
This rebellion meant that he was imprisoned and tortured. However, George remained true to his devotion to Jesus Christ.
This made Diocletian furious, so George was dragged through the streets and executed on April the 23rd, 303 AD.
So the date of 23rd April is the anniversary of George's death.
An interesting side note to the story is that Diocletian's wife, Empress Alexandra was so impressed by George's bravery and commitment to his religion, that she converted to Chrisitianity and later on was also executed for her beliefs.
Did St George fight and kill a dragon?
No. Dragons have never existed (sorry to all you Harry Potter fans out there!).
The myth is that George fought a dragon that was just about to eat a king’s daughter who had been given to the dragon as a sacrifice.
In medieval times, a beast like a dragon was meant to portray everything that is evil, so it is likely that in storytelling of the time, the dragon was used as a metaphor for the devil or 'bad things'.
Saint George's Day is in Dracula
In Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, Saint George's Day is mentioned. It is supposed to be the day when evil things happen.
Take a look at the quote below from the 1897 novel...
"Do you know what day it is?" I answered that it was the fourth of May. She shook her head as she said again: "Oh, yes! I know that, I know that! but do you know what day it is?" On my saying that I did not understand, she went on: "It is the eve of St. George's Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?"
What is the flag of England called?
England's flag is called the 'Saint George Cross' or the 'Flag of St George'. It is a red cross on a white background.
Historically, the red cross started to be used by English soldiers in the 13th Century.
In the 17th Century, the red cross was merged with the blue flag of Scotland, to create the Union flag. Then at the beginning of the 18th Century, the Union flag had the addition of the Cross of St Patrick.
This 2nd Union flag is what is commonly recognised now as the 'Union Jack', which is world famous for being the flag of the United Kingdom.
What else happened on Saint George's Day?
William Shakespeare is thought to have been born on 23rd April 1564. Official records show that he was baptised on 26th April 1564 and it was common in those days for babies to be baptised very soon after they were born. Shakespeare also died on 23rd April in the year 1616.
The 23rd of April is also when the great British artist J.M.W.Turner died in 1851.
William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) the romantic poet and Rupert Brooke (1887 - 1915) the First World War poet, both also died on St George's Day.
Why is Saint George the patron saint of England?
In the Crusades in the year 1098 AD, the image of Saint George was said to have miraculously appeared in front of the English soldiers outside Jerusalem and led them to victory at the Siege of Antioch. This gave them courage to go on and be victorious in battle.
Edward III, who was king of England from 1327 - 1377, liked hearing stories of the Crusades, and he made Saint George the patron of 'The Order of the Garter' (which was England's order of knights). Due to this, during the 14th Century, Saint George became known as a special protector of the English
Is Saint George an important saint?
Well, St George is not only the patron saint of England, but lots of other countries as well. He is the patron saint of Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Russia, Ethiopia and also in the Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia.
In Hungary, where he is known as Saint George the dragon killer, he is celebrated on April 24th. This is the name day for George, or György (the Hungarian version of the name) and it is also the day of the Hungarian police. So, Saint George is also honoured by the police as their patron saint.
Saint George is important in The British Scouting movement. Robert Baden Powell (who founded The Scouts) chose him to be their patron saint and the 23rd of April is considered by The Scouts to be the first day of the year when it should be appropriate weather conditions for camping.
In Georgia, which is named after Saint George, there are 365 churches named after him... one for every day of the year!