The Cross of St. George
I recently learned that The festival of the feast of St. George, the patron saint of England among others, traditionally held on the 23rd April each year is in fact a literally movable one.
Below is the reason why, plus some more interesting stuff about St. George.
1 - The primary festival of the Christian Church is Easter. Though this is carried out in honour of the risen Christ following his crucifixion at Golgotha, the place of the skull, its timing every year follows celestial events. Easter Sunday always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring or vernal equinox.
This being the case when there is coincidence between this and other Saints days the latter is subject to alteration, as it was as recently as 2011 and again this year according to the Church the feast of St. George will instead be marked on the Monday after the second Sunday of Easter; that being the 29th of April.
Russian Icon of St. George
2 - Despite the church’s rules on the marking of Saints days, with the Catholic church being the very originators of the concept of Sainthood and therefore whom you might think ought to determine such dates, the United Kingdom’s College of Arms, in its position of heraldic authority, retains the 23rd April as a fixed day for flag flying.
3 - Unsurprisingly St. George was not an Englishman, nor in fact a Georgian, Ethiopian or Catalonian but was in fact a Cappadocian Greek whose mother was from Syria Palaestina. Herodotus described the peoples of the region being named Cappadocians by the Persians, while to the Greeks they were referred to as Leucosyri, or ‘white Syrians’. Cappadocia is found in the volcanic central Anatolia region, modern-day Turkey, though at the time of St. George of Lydda, martyred in 303AD, it was the largest province of the Roman Empire.
St. George and the Dragon Silk Tie
4 - George’s martyrdom comes at the time of transition in the Roman Empire from the pantheonic system of worship to the monotheism of Christianity and during the period known as the Tetrarchy where power was shared between four individuals.
According to the Greek version of the story George’s beheading took place as a part of the Great Persecution in the city of Nicodemia, the largest city in the Eastern Roman Empire at the time, under the rule of Emperor Diocletian, who represented one quarter of the Tetrarchy.
This political system became inevitably broken down in a series of civil wars until only Constantine and Licinius remained, the former then defeating the latter to become the sole Emperor of east and west by 324AD. Constantine converted to Christianity himself on his deathbed to become the first Roman Emperor to do so.
St. George and the Dragon Cuff Links
5 - As a military officer in the Roman Army, St. George represents military heroism in addition to, and perhaps in greater renown than for his martyrdom. He is often depicted in mosaics, icons and frescos wearing armour and carrying weapons appropriate to the period of the depiction.
As a Christian martyr, he was venerated significantly during the crusades and across the Iberian peninsular in particular, this presence remains with the cross of St. George forming part of many regional insignia from Catalonia, to Aragon, and into Portugal. The Portuguese Navy retain the battle cry of ‘St. George’, to this day.
St. George slaying the Dragon
6 - The legend of the slaying of the dragon was not aligned with the story of the martyrdom of St. George from the 4th century until 700 years later from a source in Georgia. Initially the story took place in his home state of Cappadocia but after 200 years was transferred by the quill pen of Jacobus de Varagine in his narrative The Golden Legend, to take place in Libya. Perhaps the most famous aspect of St. George and the Dragon isn’t the particulars of the legend but the iconography.
The image of George, always to be depicted astride a white charger slaying the dragon with a spear is world renowned. A little less well known perhaps is that earlier versions exist of the martial Christ trampling the serpent and in similar depictions from the 7th century onwards another military saint, St. Theodore also carries out the dragon slaying.