April 23 is St George’s Day. St George is believed to have been martyred in the 4th century, but did not become the Patron Saint of England until the 14th century.
Several stories have been attached to St George, the best known of which appears in the 13th century Golden Legend. According to this, a dragon lived by a lake near Silena in Libya. Whole armies had gone up against this fierce creature, but suffered painful defeats. The monster ate two sheep each day; when mutton was scarce, lots were drawn in local villages and maidens were substituted for sheep. Into this country came George. Hearing the story on a day when a maiden was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode into battle against the dragon and killed it with a single blow of his lance. George then held forth with a magnificent sermon and converted the local people to Christianity. Given a large reward by the king, George distributed it among the poor and then rode away. Because of his chivalrous behavior (protecting women, fighting evil, being charitable and showing piety) devotion to St George become popular in Europe in the Middle Ages.
April 23 was supposedly the day on which St George was publicly beheaded, after a Roman emperor passed a death sentence on all Christians. He became the patron saint of England in the time of King Edward III, who reigned 1327-1377.
The saint's name was shouted as a battle cry by English soldiers who fought beneath the red-cross banner of St George during the Hundred Years War (1338-1453). This is immortalized in Shakespeare's play Henry V in the lines:
"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game's afoot: follow your spirit; and, upon this charge cry "God for Harry! England and Saint George!""
Salisbury in the south of England hosts an annual St George's Festival over several days on or near April 23. This celebrates the myths and legends surrounding St George, as well as medieval life and more contemporary entertainment.
For more information on England click here.
- Uccello's St George and the Dragon
- English Tourist Board
- English Heritage
- English Nature
- England Cricket Team
- England Soccer Team
- English Folk Dance and Song Society
- English Oak Trees
- Shakespeare & the Internet