Saint George Biography
Saint George was a soldier in the Roman army who protested against the persecution of Christianity and eventually became the patron saint of various entities and countries after his execution. He earned recognition and promotion in the court of the Roman emperor Diocletian due to his dedicated service. However, his conflicting views on popularizing the state religion, paganism, by suppressing and refuting Christianity led to differences with the emperor. He was tortured and beheaded despite the emperor’s repeated attempts of luring him to convert into a pagan, which induced courage in other Christians and fellow soldiers to stand for their religion and follow him. In no time, he became a popular figure across the world and is, till date, counted among the most significant warrior saints. Today, he is referred by various honorary names by different sects for his heroic and brave act – while the Eastern Orthodox Church calls him a ‘Great Martyr’, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt honors him as the ‘Prince of Martyrs’. Honored, respected and admired across the world by both the Western and Eastern Christian churches, his patronages can be found throughout on flags and coats of arms of various nations and in the form of churches, monasteries, and holidays observed in his honor
- Saint George is believed to have been born in the late third century around 275 AD or 280 AD in Lydda, Syria Palestine, in a Greek Christian family, to Gerontios, an officer in the Roman army, and Polychronia.
- His father died when he was just 14 and then he lost his mother a few years later, after which he moved to Nicomedia to become a soldier under Roman Emperor Diocletian at the young age of 17.
- He earned honor and position under Diocletian, since his father was one of the finest soldiers in his army. His excellent service got him promoted as a Tribunus and posted as imperial guard at Nicomedia.
- Being a strict disciplinarian, Diocletian sought to unite his empire by popularizing the state religion, paganism, and suppressing the spread of Christianity, probably under the influence of his second chief commander, Galerius.
- With rumors of Galerius’ death being plotted by Christians spreading around, Diocletian issued an edict to demolish all Christian churches and arrest all Christian soldiers, which was duly objected by George.
- Despite Diocletian’s repeated attempts of converting him and offering him gifts, he stood firm on his decision and defended himself of being an ardent Jesus Christ follower and a loyal Christian.
- He was arrested upon Diocletian’s orders after he refused to give in to the latter’s constant efforts. He distributed his property among the poor and freed the slaves before his execution.
- He was tortured in numerous ways, including slashing him on a wheel of swords where he was resuscitated three times, before he was finally executed.
- His sacrifice and sufferings influenced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius to a great extent that they converted to Christianity and became martyrs along with George.
- Popular legends of him killing a dragon while rescuing a beautiful young lady, Diocletian’s wife Alexandra, have been portrayed in texts and on the canvas since 11th century.
- His efforts of protecting Christianity from persecution got him imprisoned and executed brutally at the hands of the Roman emperor Diocletian, which eventually contributed in the spread of the religion centuries later.
- His admiration and recognition spread across the Eastern Roman Empire and Georgia in the 4th century, where Christianity was gradually introduced and November 23 was honored as feast day by his relative, St Nino of Cappadocia.
- His beliefs and values reached the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, where he was patronized as a saint by Pope Gelasius I.
- St. George’s Cross – a red cross on a white background, also known as Colors of Saint George, was adapted by numerous countries in their national flags, namely, England, Republic of Genoa, Georgia, Catalonia, Aragon, and so on.
- He was beheaded at Nicomedia near Lydda on April 23, 303, following his refusal of refuting his faith in Christ and accepting paganism.
- He was honored as a martyr by the Christians and his remains were buried in a church in Lydda that’s named after him. His head was taken to Rome where it was preserved in a church dedicated to him.
- After his spirit was sighted by the Franks at the Battle of Antioch in 1098 and a year later in Jerusalem, he was made patron saint of England in 1222 and St. George’s Day was declared a feast day.
- St. George’s Day is a feast day in the General Roman Calendar. However, the Tridentine Calendar ranks it as ‘Semidouble’, Pope Piux XII’s calendar as ‘Simple’, ‘Pope John’s as ‘Commemoration’ and Pope Paul VI’s as ‘Memorial’.
- The Eastern Orthodox Church, in particular, observes St. George’s Day as a major celebration, marked on April 23 – his day of martyrdom as per the Julian calendar, corresponding to May 6 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Russian Orthodox Church observes two additional feasts – November 3 to mark the dedication of a cathedral in Lydda where his remains were transferred and November 26 to celebrate a church’s dedication to him in Kiev.
- Various patronages of Saint George exist across the world – St. George’s Day is a provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada), Mar-Girges is a metro station in Cairo, and 16th century Monastery of Saint George (Palestine).
- He is the patron saint of numerous countries, including England, Georgia, Portugal, Lebanon, Greece, Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany, Brazil, Lithuania, Malta, Gozo, Montenegro, Aragon and Catalonia in Spain, and Syria.
- The national flag of England bears his cross. Besides, his cross also appears in the Union Flag of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
- Georgia has 365 Orthodox churches named after him equivalent to the number of days in a year.
- His flag was used by the Portuguese Army with the battle cry ‘Portugal and Saint George’ after the 12th century, which, till date, is its battle cry, but as a shortened form ‘Saint George’.
- Various ‘Order of St. George’ titles and awards have been created in his honor, like, Order of St. George (Hungary, Hanover and Imperial Russia), Royal Military Order of St. George (Tonga), and St. George’s Order of Victory (Georgia).
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