George, whose name in Greek means “farmer,” was born to a Christian family in Cappadocia at about the year 280.
After moving to Palestine, he joined the army of the Roman emperor Diocletian. When the emperor issued the edict of persecution against Christians in 303, George gave all his belongings to the poor and, in front of Diocletian, tore the document apart and professed his faith in Christ. For this he suffered terrible torture and was beheaded.
A famous story about George says that in the city of Selem in Libya, there was a large pond where a terrible dragon lived. To appease it, the inhabitants offered him two sheep a day and later a sheep and a child drawn by lot. One day the king’s daughter was chosen, and while she was heading toward the pond, George passed by and pierced the dragon with his spear; a gesture that became a symbol of faith triumphing over evil.
The crusaders contributed a great deal to transforming the figure of St. George the martyr into a holy warrior, seeing in the killing of the dragon a symbol for the defeat of Islam; Richard I of England (“the Lionheart”) invoked him as the protector of all soldiers. With the Normans the cult of St. George became firmly rooted in England where, in 1348, King Edward III established the Order of the Knights of St. George. Throughout the Middle Ages his figure inspired a great deal of epic literature.
St. George is considered the patron of knights, soldiers, scouts, fencers and archers, among others; he is also invoked against the plague and leprosy, and against venomous snakes. The relics of the saint are found in different places of the world; in Rome the church of San Giorgio al Velabro has housed his skull from the time of Pope Zachariah.
As in the case of other saints wrapped in legend, the story of St George serves to remind the world of a fundamental idea, that good ultimately triumphs over evil.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from: St. George, Martyr – Information on the – Vatican News. (n.d.). Vatican News. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/saints/04/23/st–george–martyr.html