Today is the feast day of Saint George, a Roman officer of Greek descent from Cappadocia, who was martyred in one of the pre-Constantinian persecutions. George is a very popular saint, honored all over the world, but especially in England where he is the patron saint. (“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead. … cry God for Harry, England, and St George!”)
Here is Donatello’s famous statue in Florence…
…but something’s missing! Where’s the dragon?The slaying of the dragon is definitely an integral and important part of this saint’s universal appeal.
Here is Dragon Hill, a small hillock immediately below the Uffington White Horse in the county of Oxfordshire in England. It is a natural chalk hill with an artificially flattened top. According to legend, Saint George slew the dragon here.
A bare patch of chalk upon which no grass will grow is purported to be where the dragon’s blood spilled.
A traditional custom on St George’s day is to fly or adorn one’s home or business with the St George’s Cross flag. Pubs in particular can be seen festooned with garlands of St George’s crosses on April 23. It is also customary for the hymn “Jerusalem” to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George’s Day. All of the above sound like good ideas to me.
Lord Jesus Christ, whose cross didst seal thy servant George: Grant that we, strengthened by his example and prayers, may triumph to the end over all evils, to the glory of thy Name; for with the Father and Holy Spirit thou livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
*Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 3, scene one
(The artwork is, from top to bottom: Donatello, Albrecht Durer, an English WWI recruitment poster, a Russian icon, N.C. Wyeth)