Five things you didn’t know about St George
You may think you know St George - he slayed a dragon, saved a princess, and gave England one of the most recognisable flags in the world.
But there are some things about him that might surprise you. Here are a few.
St George isn’t English
Let’s start with the big one. He may be a huge figure in English culture, but as it turns out, he was probably born about 2000 miles away from England.
It’s thought he’s from Cappodocia, which is about where Turkey is today.
He never visited England
Not only was he not from England, it’s likely he never even set foot on English soil either.
The connection with the country comes from King Richard I who, when on his crusades, purportedly placed his army under the protection of St George.
This is also why St George’s cross is on the English flag: St George was traditionally depicted carrying or wearing a red cross on white background, and King Richard adopted it in his honour.
But England doesn't actually own the design of its flag. An ‘annual tribute’ for the use of the flag used to be paid to the Italian city of Genoa, and now apparently the Queen owes 247 years' worth of back payments.
He might not have even existed
Well, now it’s just getting silly.
There are so many myths and legends around St George (dragon, anyone?) that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. It could be that his actions and adventures were hyperbolised when they were written down, or even that he was entirely based on an ancient pagan myth. No one really knows, though.
He’s not just the patron saint of England
Leaving aside his possible non-existence for a moment, England doesn’t have a sole claim to St George’s patronage.
Other countries that he is the patron saint for include Ethiopia, Lithuania (after St Casimir), Georgia and Portugal. He’s even the patron saint of some cities: Freiburg, Moscow and Beirut to name a few.
The dragon probably wasn’t real
Okay, so you might have guessed this one. But it’s not just that dragons are mythical creatures - the legend came about long after George died and achieved martyrdom.
The earliest recording of the saint slaying a dragon dates around the 11th century, but only became popular knowledge in the 15th century, when it was printed in a book called The Golden Legend. George however is thought to have been born in the 3rd century and died in the early 4th century.