Wednesday, April 22, 2015

St. George, Martyr

The saint of the day for April 23 is St. George, a soldier of the Roman army who was tortured and beheaded for his Christian faith in the year 303, in Palestine (Lydda). He was most likely born in Cappadocia, of Christian parents.

After his father was martyred for his faith, George moved to Palestine with his mother where he joined the military and served as a soldier in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He demonstrated great courage, rising to the rank of military tribune of the imperial guards. When he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, he was tortured and beheaded at Nicomedia, a town of Asia Minor on an inlet of the Sea of Marmora. Some say that Saint George was the young Christian who, as Eusebius relates, tore down the Imperial edict of persecution. However, there is no proof of this.

St. George is usually depicted in Christian art as a soldier on horseback killing a dragon with a lance. This image is a representation of a popular legend of St. George which first appears in 1265 in a romance titled "The Golden Legend," in which he saved a town terrorized by a dragon with one blow of his lance. The image is a strong symbol of the victory of Christian faith over evil (sometimes understood in the early Church as “paganism”), embodied by the devil who is symbolized by the dragon according to the imagery in Revelations.

The cult of St. George, while universal, remains strongest in the Eastern Church where he is venerated as “The Great Martyr.” Accounts of early pilgrims identify the seat of the cult of St. George at his burial site in Palestine (Lydda). The cult has been in existence since the 4th century, soon after his death.

Saint George is the patron of England, the Order of the Garter, Boy Scouts, the Italian Calvary (which had a devotion to the holy knight), chivalry, Istanbul, Aragon, Portugal, Germany, Genoa, and Venice. In the East, he is the patron of soldiers. He is also invoked against the plague, leprosy, syphilis, and herpes. He is one of fourteen holy helpers.

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