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Happy St George's Day


Some people wonder why the English took St George as their patron saint, but to many English it must have seemed obvious -

They rode horses, and liked to travel, and so did George. They were adventurous, and George was fond of adventures, too. They rallied to hopeless causes, and so did he, taking on a fire-breathing dragon to save a girl and her city. What more do you want? Ah, yes, success. Well, St George succeeded in slaying the dragon.

On his way to becoming the patron saint of England, St George became the patron saint of English farmers (his Greek name combines the words for land and tilling) and the patron saint of knights. On the spiritual quest he is one of the knights in shining armour who personifies the ideals of Christian chivalry. (The knight's code was made visible in the Geneva Conventions, which include nursing ill and wounded enemy prisoners, treating them courteously - "humanely" - and protecting civilians.

St George was known in England as early as the 7th century - he made an early appearance in a stained glass window at the monastery of Jarrow. He was evoked as soldier patron during the crusades, and was given a feast day at the synod of Oxford in A.D. 1222. In 1381, the farmers and artisans marching on London in the Great Revolt marched under the banner of St George. George was finally recognized as patron saint of England during Henry V's reign early in the 15th century. Let it never be thought that the English did not thoroughly review his credentials. If only our politicians received so complete a vetting.

Subsequently St George was "linked by name to beneficent institutions of all kinds, to hospitals and charities as well as churches. . ." (Oxford DNB). He appeared in plays all over England. Every guild and association named him as its patron. His personal charms were evident in cheerful pub signs that showed him reviving with a beer after his struggle with the dragon.

In the 20th century, George Orwell took the name George in affection for St George and England. Simon Heffer explains revolutionary 21st century views here. English Heritage celebrates St George's Day here. And Roger Helmer MEP sends a rather funny cartoon greeting, to which we respond, be not afraid!

Happy St George's Day!

From David and Cat