Who was St George?
Feast day: 23rd April
George isn’t just the patron saint of England, but also Catalonia, Genoa, Portugal and Georgia (to name a few), as well as farmers, soldiers and, believe it or not, syphilis sufferers.
It’s thought that he was born in Cappodocia (Turkey), died in Lydda (Israel) in 303 AD, and never actually visited England. He was probably a soldier, possibly an officer, in the Roman army. The image of him as a knight in armour on horseback first appeared in the 11th century. Then in the 13th century, the story of George slaying the dragon in order to liberate the city of Silene (in Libya) became popular as part of Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend (which was translated and published in English about 200 years later).
George was a martyr, persecuted and executed for refusing to renounce his Christianity by Emperor Diocletian. He was canonised by Pope Gelasius in 494 AD.
It was Edward III who declared him to be the Patron Saint of England in 1348 when he founded the Order of the Garter. St George’s Cross still appears on the Garter badge, and it remains the highest order of chivalry.