Yesterday was St. George’s Day! Which, as the name suggests, is a day which is all about celebrating being English. And it’s all because of good old St. George, right? But, wait, who was he and why is he our guy? According to some historical accounts, St. George was a well-known Roman soldier of Greek origin. Some accounts of his early life differ significantly, but the dominant opinion is that he was born in a place called Cappadocia (now part of Turkey).
With his mother being from Palestine and his father in the Roman Army, St. George was brought up a Christian. When he was 17 years old, he decided to join the Roman Army himself. Through hard work and gritty determination, he managed to rise up the ranks very quickly and it wasn’t long before he was Emperor Diocletian’s trusted right-hand man.
However, the relationship between the two was soon to falter. In 303AD, St. George found himself discriminated against based on his religious beliefs. The Roman Army at the time were cracking down on a rising Christian sentiment within their ranks. All Christians were given a choice: renounce your faith or face expulsion from the army.
Being part of Emperor Diocletian’s inner circle, St. George was offered increased wealth and prosperity if he walked away from Christianity. He flatly refused. So, Diocletian ordered St. George to be tortured and executed.
According to some historical records, he was beaten and brutally tortured. All the time he was told that he could walk away, a free man, if he was just to renounce his faith.
He refused right up to the bitter end; he stayed true to himself until his death which is why he is revered as a martyr by so many people – particularly those who have suffered from religious discrimination themselves. After his death, his body was returned to his homeland – Lydda – and laid to rest. Even today, a constant stream of people visit the grave to pay their respects.
Fact: A patron saint does not have to be from the country who has made them their saint, according to historian Ian Mortimer. Although they do have to embody the characteristics the kingdom wants to project to outsiders. Of course, St. George isn’t just the patron saint of England; he’s also the patron saint of Portugal, Lebanon, Malta, Ethiopia, Georgia, the Palestinian territories, Serbia and Lithuania.
This means that, when it comes to a patron saint for England, he’s a pretty good fit. Because here we place a huge emphasis on multiculturalism, integration and the human right to practice whatever religion you want.
Featured image credit: The Sun via Facebook