St George's Day

Happy St George’s Day!

By Huw Le Lytle

Today is St George’s Day!

St George is the Patron Saint of England. And the cross that you might know from the England flag is actually his cross.

But St George is quite the well-travelled Saint. First, he was born in what is now Turkey (not England) and he moved to Palestine and became a soldier. But he fell out with the Emperor and so he quit his job. Unfortunately the Emperor took this badly and put him in jail. And then the Emperor had him retired permanently from employment (he did him in). The Emperor’s wife was so impressed by St George’s integrity that she converted to his faith. And so the Emperor did her in as well. But does anyone remember that Emperor? Not much. And he certainly doesn’t get his own day. But everybody loves St George!

St George has dedications throughout Romania where he is the patron saint. And he is also patron saint of Bulgaria, where there is a huge feast to celebrate. And he is patron saint of Ethiopia. And he is patron saint of Georgia where he is revered as a symbol of national liberation. And he is also loved in Malta and Gozo for protecting the Maltese in a legendary battle with the Moors. And he is also the patron saint of Portugal, and in the 15th century the Portuguese even carried the same flag, and today the Portuguese Navy still calls out “Saint George” as their battle cry. And he is the patron saint of Catalonia (which of course is famous for the wonderful Catalan sheepdog), where St George is a symbol of national identity. In fact, one of the highest civil honours in Catalonia is the Creu de Sant Jordi, which translates as St George’s Cross. And of course he is the patron saint of Aragon in Spain, where the cross is still on Aragon’s shield. And there is a shrine to St George in the Holy Land, which is visited by all faiths.

Some have said that St George shouldn’t be the patron saint of England, because he doesn’t really have anything to do with England. But, in true English style, no-one can agree on a replacement. But I think wanting a replacement misses the point. As far as I am concerned, the way he is loved all over the world makes him perfect for the job. He is basically the Sir Terry Wogan of patron saints. We love Sir Terry in England, but he was actually Irish, and distinctly European as the voice of Eurovision since the 1970s. And in fact Sir Terry didn’t actually acquire British citizenship until 2005, when he was awarded a knighthood in the same year.

And if you are worried about his bloodthirsty reputation when it comes to dragons, it is in fact highly unlikely that St George actually fought a dragon. And not just because of the doubt that persists over the existence of dragons. It was probably just a person … who may or may not have been called Dragon.

So, in this age of trying to fence off dog parks and cancel pet passports, I think we should celebrate St George more than ever. St George … the Terry Wogan of patron saints!

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