Saint George: Great Martyr and Triumphant
Saint George (Greek: Γεώργιος, Geṓrgios; Latin: Georgius; d. 23 April 303 was a Roman soldier of Greek origin and a member of the Praetorian Guard for Roman emperor Diocletian, who was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith. He became one of the most venerated saints and megalo-martyrs in Christianity, and was especially venerated by the Crusaders. Orthodox Christians commemorate his feast day on April 23rd.
Saint George’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint George, is the feast day of Saint George as celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint including England, and regions of Portugal and Spain (Catalonia and Aragon).
Saint George’s Day is normally celebrated on 23 April. However, Church of England rules denote that no saints’ day should be celebrated between Palm Sunday and the Sunday after Easter Day so if 23 April falls in that period the celebrations are transferred to after it. 23 April is the traditionally accepted date of the saint’s death in the Diocletianic Persecution of AD 303.
The fame of St. George increased throughout Europe in 1265 by publication of the Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend) by James of Voragine, a collection of stories which included that of George and the Dragon. Actual origin of the legend of George and the Dragon is unknown. It may have been begun by the Crusaders when they returned home but was not recorded until the sixth century. St. George was a prominent figure in the secular miracle plays performed in the springs of medieval times. Some hold the story to be a christianized version of the Greek legend of Perseus said to have rescued a princess near the Lydda where St. George’s tomb is located.
A poll published last week by the IPPR, a Left-leaning think tank, suggests that seven out of 10 people living in England want Saint George’s Day to be a public holiday. Well, on Ethiopia’s Saint George’s Day they surely have a public holiday, as it falls on the same day as Labor Day.
Even a Google Doodle marked once Saint George’s Day with an image of Ethiopia’s Patron Saint slaying a dragon.
- Saint George’s Day
In the calendars of the Lutheran Churches, those of the Anglican Communion, and the General Calendar of the Roman Rite, the feast of Saint George is normally celebrated on 23 April. Since Easter often falls close to Saint George’s Day, the church celebration of the feast may be moved from 23 April: For 2011, 2014 and 2019 the Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic calendars celebrated Saint George’s Day on the first available weekday after the Octave of Easter (see Easter Week) (2 May 2011, 28 April 2014 and 29 or 30 April, respectively). Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of the feast moves accordingly to the first Monday after Easter or, as it is sometimes called, to the Monday of Bright Week. The church celebration may also be moved if 23 April falls on a Sunday; in England and Wales the Catholic calendar celebrated Saint George on Monday 24 April 2017 (because Sunday is the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, which is far more important than any saint’s commemoration).
Besides the 23 April feast, some Orthodox Churches have additional feasts dedicated to St George. The country of Georgia celebrates the feast of St George on 23 April and, more prominently, 10 November (Julian calendar), which currently fall on 6 May and 23 November (Gregorian calendar), respectively. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav the Wise in 1051 on 26 November (Julian calendar), which currently falls on 9 December on the Gregorian calendar.
In the Tridentine Calendar Saint George’s Day was given the rank of “Semidouble”. In Pope Pius XII’s 1955 calendar this rank is reduced to “Simple”. In Pope John XXIII’s 1960 calendar the celebration is just a “Commemoration“. In Pope Paul VI’s revision of the calendar that came into force in 1969, it was given the equivalent rank of a “Memorial“, of optional use. In some countries, such as England, the rank is higher.
- Western tradition
English Catholic and Anglican tradition
The earliest documented mention of St. George in England comes from the Catholic monk the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). His feast day is also mentioned in the Durham Collectar, a ninth-century liturgical work. The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. At Fordington a stone over the south door records the miraculous appearance of St. George to lead crusaders into battle. Early (c. 10th century) dedications of churches to St. George are noted in England, for example at Fordingham, Dorset, at Thetford, Southwark and Doncaster. In the past, historians mistakenly pointed to the Synod of Oxford in 1222 as elevating the feast to special prominence, but the earliest manuscripts of the synod’s declaration do not mention the feast of St. George. The declarations of the Province of Canterbury in 1415 and the Province of York in 1421 elevated the feast to a double major, and as a result, work was prohibited and church attendance was mandatory. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon. Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453). Certain English soldiers also displayed the pennon of St. George.
St. George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The tradition of celebration St. George’s day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. Nevertheless, the link with St. George continues today, for example Salisbury holds an annual St. George’s Day pageant, the origins of which are believed to go back to the 13th century. In recent years the popularity of St. George’s Day appears to be increasing gradually. BBC Radio 3 had a full programme of St. George’s Day events in 2006, and Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, has been putting the argument forward in the House of Commons to make St. George’s Day a public holiday. In early 2009, Mayor of London Boris Johnson spearheaded a campaign to encourage the celebration of St. George’s Day. Today, St. George’s day may be celebrated with anything English including morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows.
A traditional custom on St. George’s day is fly or adorn the St. George’s Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on 23 April festooned with garlands of St. George’s crosses. It is customary for the hymn “Jerusalem” to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St. George’s Day, or on the Sunday closest to it. Traditional English food and drink may be consumed.
There is a growing reaction to the recent indifference to St. George’s Day. Organisations such as English Heritage and the Royal Society of St. George have been encouraging celebrations. There have also been calls to replace St. George as patron saint of England on the grounds that he was an obscure figure who had no direct connection with the country. However, there is no obvious consensus as to whom to replace him with, though names suggested include Edmund the Martyr, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, or Saint Alban, with the last having topped a BBC Radio 4 poll on the subject. Recently there have been calls to reinstate St Edmund as the patron Saint of England as he was displaced by George some 400 years ago.
Religious observance of St. George’s day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England’s calendar, when St. George’s Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2011, for example, 23 April was Holy Saturday, so St. George’s Day was moved to Monday 2 May. The Catholic Church in England and Wales has a similar practice.
Saint George is the patron saint of The Scout Movement, which has held St. George’s Day parades since its first years.
Boy scouting has its origin in England in 1907 -08. General Robert Baden-Powell was one of few heroes to survive Britain’s Boer War. He wrote the book ‘Aids to Scouting’ and was startled to discover many boys used the book as an aid to outdoor activities. He sought to convert his concepts of army scouting for men to ‘peace concepts’ for boys.
In his ‘Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell referred to the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian Legend and to St. George who was the Knights’ patron saint. He wrote, “He is also the Patron Saint of Scouts everywhere. Therefore all Scouts should know his story. St. George was typical of what a Scout should be. When he was faced by a difficulty or danger, however great it appeared, even in the shape of a dragon – he did not avoid it or fear it but went at it with all the power he could … That is exactly the way a Scout should face a difficulty or danger no matter how great or how terrifying it may appear. He should go at it boldly and confidently, using every power that he can to try and overcome it and the probability is that he will succeed.” From Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys (1908)
Baden-Powell also had a favorite rhyme about the Patron Saint:
My warmest good wishes I am sending to you
And hoping that the winter is through
You will start out afresh to follow the lead
Of our Patron Saint George and his spirited steed;
Not only to tackle what ever my befall,
But also successfully to win through it all
And then may you have an enjoyable spell
Of hiking, and jolly good camping as well.
In sport, 23 April is also the anniversary of the St. George Dragons Rugby League Football Club. The St. George club coincidentally played their inaugural New South Wales Rugby League first grade match on St. George’s Day, 23 April 1921 at the Sydney Sports Ground in Australia.
- Iberian peninsula
Saint George is the patron saint of the former Crown of Aragon, since King Peter I of Aragon won the Battle of Alcoraz with his patronage. He is also patron of several cities. In most cases, the reason for those cities’ relation with the Saint as their holy Patron is linked to historic events which happened during the “Reconquista.”
As in the rest of the historical territory of the Crown of Aragon, the Feast of St. George is celebrated enthusiastically in the Community of Aragon, being the country’s patron saint and its national day. On 23 April, Aragon celebrates its “Día de Aragón” (Day of Aragon) in commemoration of the Battle of Alcoraz (Baralla d’Alcoraz in Aragonese), on which Huesca was conquered by the Aragonese army and in which tradition says that St. George appeared at a critical moment for the Christian Army.
Traditionally, boys give girls a red rose and girls give boys a book. Among roses, many piles of books are for sale in Catalan streets (1.5m books sold in 2015).
One notable celebration is in the Valencian city of Alcoi. There, Saint George’s Day is commemorated as a thanksgiving celebration for the proclaimed aid the Saint provided to the Christian troops fighting the Muslims in the siege of the city. Its citizens commemorate the day with a festivity in which thousands of people parade in medieval costumes, forming two “armies” of Moors and Christians and re-enacting the siege that gave the city to the Christians.
Devotions to Saint George in Portugal date back to the twelfth century, and Saint Constable attributed the victory of the Portuguese against what is now mostly modern day Spain, in the battle of Aljubarrota in the fourteenth century to Saint George. During the reign of King John I (1357–1433) Saint George became the patron saint of Portugal and the King ordered that the saint’s image on the horse be carried in the Corpus Christi procession. In fact, the Portuguese Army motto means Portugal and Saint George, in perils and in efforts of war.
It reached also Brazil:
- Germany Georgiritt and Easter egg tree
Easter egg tree:
The tradition in Germany to decorate the branches of trees and bushes with eggs for Easter is centuries old, but its origins have been lost. The egg is an ancient symbol of life all over the world. Eggs are hung on branches of outdoor trees and bushes and on cut branches inside. The custom is found mostly in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland , but also in other German-influenced places such as Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moravia, and the Pennsylvania Dutch region of the United States. Egg trees are also sometimes decorated on May Day, Christmas, Whitsun, and the summer solstice. Other German Easter traditions include the dressing of public wells as Osterbrunnen, Osterhasen (Easter Hares) and Osterfeuer (Easter bonfires).Read more here
In tradition-rich Buttenheim and many other towns in Bavaria, Georgiritt (plural Georgiritte), (George’s Ride) takes place around St George’s Day 23. April, especially around churches dedicated to the saint. Brightly decorated horses and wagons parade several times around the church, in which a service is then held at which the riders and horses are blessed. Various competitions may be held afterwards.
- 24 April
Exceptionally in the Czech Republic and Hungary, Saint George’s Day comes on 24 April. The reason why it was moved from 23 April in case of the Czech’s svátek sv. Jiří is, that there is a day of St. Adalbert of Prague (in Czech Svatý Vojtěch), Czech national patron saint, who was martyred on 23 April 997. It is celebrated in a special way.
Below are some examples of San Giorgio’s celebrations. The first video is set in Portofino, where every year, on April 23, a special bonfire is prepared; the second is a procession in Modica, in South East Sicily, in the beautiful Baroque church dedicated to Saint George.
- Eastern Slavic tradition
The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the Julian calendar, has two important feasts of Saint George. Besides the feast of 23 April (Julian calendar), common through all Christendom, Russians also celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of St. George in Kiev by Yaroslav the Wise (1051) on 26 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on 9 December. One of the Russian forms of the name George being Yuri, the two feasts are popularly known as Vesenniy Yuriev Den (Yuri’s Day in the Spring) and Osenniy Yuriev Den (Yuri’s Day in the Fall).
- South Slavic tradition and Balkan spring festival
In Serbian, St. George’s Day is called Đurđevdan (Cyrillic: Ђурђевдан) and is celebrated on 6 May every year, as the Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian, Old Style calendar. St. George’s Day is one of the most common Slavas (family patron day) among the Serbs. Đurđevdan is also celebrated by both Orthodox and Muslim Romani and Muslim Gorani. Đurđevdan is celebrated, especially, in the areas of Raška in Serbia. Apart from being the Slava of many families, St. George’s Day is marked by morning picnics, music, and folk dances.
Possibly the most celebrated name day in Bulgaria, St. George’s Day (Гергьовден, Gergyovden) is a public holiday that takes place on 6 May each year. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St. George is the patron saint of shepherds. It is also believed to be a magical day when all evil spells can be broken. It was believed that the saint helps the crops to grow and blesses the morning dew, so early in the morning they walked in the pastures and meadows and collected dew, washed their face, hands and feet in it for good luck and even in some rural parts of Bulgaria it was a custom to roll in it naked.
St. George’s Day is also Bulgarian Armed Forces Day, made official with a decree of Prince Alexander of Battenberg on 9 January 1880. Parades are organised in the capital Sofia to present the best of the equipment and manpower of the Bulgarian military, as well as in major cities nationwide.
St. George’s Day is also called Đurđevdan and is celebrated by Bosnian Serbs and Romani (both Orthodox and Muslim), but also has been celebrated by the other ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Đurđevdan’s widespread appeal can be seen in the folk song Đurđevdan popularised by Bijelo Dugme as well as Meša Selimović’s novel Death and the Dervish.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, Saint George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April, unless this date falls during Lent or Holy Week when it is celebrated on the day following Easter. Other, lesser saints are commemorated during Lent or Holy Week on their usual dates. However, because of St. George’s standing as one of the church’s most venerated megalomartyrs the celebration date is moved outside of Lent and Holy Week so that people can fully celebrate the day.
- “Ai Giorgis” (St George), the Victory-bearing knight of the spring in Greece
Ai Giorgis, the patron of farmers and breeders
April 23 is a special day in Greece. It is the feast day of St. George and the second milestone day in the year, after the feast day of St. Demetrios. It is identified with the coming of spring, the sowing and transfer of the flocks to the mountain. That is why farmers and breeders consider St George as their patron.
According to an old tradition of Central Greece, in the old days a dragon blocked the water of the area and the villagers suffered. Only when the villagers brought him somebody to eat he was satisfied and they could have some water. The name of the victim was decided every time by a drawing of lots.
But one year the drawing produced the name of the local princess. In response to her prayers, Ai Giorgis (St George) appeared miraculously on his horse, killed the dragon and he saved the princess.
Strong traditions at the name day of St George
In Arcadia – Peloponnese well-known customs that resist the passing of time are the blessing of the fields and the branches of the walnut tree at the doorstep of the houses, while at Asi Gonia,
Chania, Crete the local breeders go together with their flocks to the church of Ai-Giorgis Galatas (=St. George of the milk) to take his blessing.
The most important oath of Sarakatsans (former nomads in Greece) is that they make in the name of Saint George, while in many areas (Arachova of Viotia) festivals are organized with traditional competitions, local dances, traditional music, accompanied by local dishes.
In Northern Greece (Xanthi, Serres) many customs like the Pechlivanides revive, which focus on the fight of the Saint with the dragon and his final victory.
“Ai Giorgis Mantilas” & the custom with the handkerchiefs
A reference point is the custom with the handkerchiefs in Central Greece (Kalambaka). There at the area of Kastraki, the chapel of St. George Mantillas (=of the handkerchiefs) is to be found. The chapel is at the bottom of a steep cliff.
According to the custom every year, young people with hundreds of handkerchiefs -tributes of pilgrims tied around their waist, climb the steep cliff with the help of ropes in order to hang the new handkerchiefs on the top and get the ones of last year. When they go down, they share the old handkerchiefs with the pilgrims who watch the dangerous climb as a talisman.
The custom of the handkerchiefs seems to have its roots to the era of Ottoman domination. At that time, during a popular tradition, a man of Turkish origin fell unconscious while picking woods in the area of the Monastery. His wife prayed and begged the Saint to help her husband and when the man stood up the woman offered her handkerchief to the Saint, as a thanksgiving gift. Since then the monastery named Agios Georgios Mantillas.
However, there are many different versions of the above story.
“Ai Giorgis Koudounas” (=the one who brings bells), Pringipos
Also characteristic is the case of St. George Koudounas (=the one who brings bells) as it is called, at Prigipos (Propontis, the Prince’s Islands near Constantinople). The icon was found by a shepherd, covered by bells and that is why it took that name.
Since it has been found until today it is a place of pilgrimage not only from Greeks, but also from Turks who never forget to honour the Saint at his feast day. St. George Koudounas is considered to be miraculous and healer of mental aberrations.
- St George and Hidirellez Turkey
St. George is also honored by Muslims as his figure has become a composite character mixing elements from Biblical, Quranic and folkloric sources, at times being identified with prophet Al-Khidr.
Hıdırellez or Hıdrellez (Turkish: Hıdırellez or Hıdrellez, Azerbaijani: Xıdır İlyas or Xıdır Nəbi, Crimean Tatar: Hıdırlez, Romani language: Ederlezi) is celebrated as the day on which the Prophets Hızır (Al-Khidr) and Ilyas (Elijah) met on Earth.
Hıdırellez is regarded as one of the most important seasonal bayrams (festivals) in both Turkey and countries above mentioned. Called Day of Hızır (Ruz-ı Hızır) in Turkey, Hıdırellez is celebrated as the day on which the prophets Hızır (Al-Khdir) and İlyas (Elijah) met on Earth. The words Hızır and İlyas fused to create the present term. Known as Aid al-Khidr it is also one of the most important social celebrations in Syria. Hıdırellez Day falls on May 6 in the Gregorian calendar and April 23 in the Julian calendar. In other countries the day has mostly been connected with pagan and Saint George cults.
The word Hıdırellez, born out as a compound form of Hızır and İlyas, they are regarded as two different persons. In respect to religious sources, there are several references on İlyas; However, there is no slight mention about Hızır. The perception of seeing Hızır and İlyas as identical arises from the fact that İlyas stands as an obscure figure within the context of Tasavvuf (Sufism) and popular piety when compared to Hızır and there are numerous legends on Hızır, whereas little is known about İlyas and furthermore, there are many great maqams of Hızır, yet there are only few maqams for İlyas. Ali the Fourth Caliph is associated with Hızır within Alevi-Bektaşi belief system.
St. George is the figure corresponding to Hızır in Christianity. Besides being associated with St. George, Hızır is also identified with İlyas Horasani, St. Theodore and St. Sergios. St. George believed to be identical with Hızır, is believed to be similar to some Muslim saints; St. George is identified with Torbalı Sultan and Cafer Baba in Thessaly, Karaca Ahmet Sultan in Skopje, which is a mounting evidence how St. George and Hızır have influenced St. George’s Day and Hıdrellez Day ceremonies.
Further information: Hıdırellez
- Hizir-Elijah cult and Hidrellez tradition in Anatolia
Hidrellez is one of the spring festivals which is celebrated in Turkish world. Formerly this day was called Ruz-i Hizir, but today it is also called Hizir-Elijah day. The name of Hidirellez, was born out as a compound form of Hizir and Elijah among the people. They are regarded as two different people. In respect to religious sources, there are several references on ̄lyas. However, there is no slight mention about Hizir. The cult of Hidir-Elijah, which is a folk belief in Anatolia and the Spring festival Hidrellez and was consequently emitted, has pre-Islamic extension. Hidrellez refers to the junction day of the Hidir and Elijah. There are enough resources available about hidir belief but, there is no written source about Hidrellez. Hidrellez is synonymous with spring holidays departing from belief in Hidir and is further enriched with Christian influence in Anatolia. Christian community has Saint Nicholas and Saint Georges like Hidir beliefs Turkish folk. These folk beliefs’ common feature is both of them are mystical. Hidir has been called the highest authority in the Turkish Islamic Sufism. The most enthusiastic celebrations of Hidirellez is done in Hatay region. There are many maqams given named hidirlik in this region. Muslim and non-Muslim population lived together for centuries in Hatay. It is a city of tolerance.
- Who was the Hızır in Hıdırellez?
May 5 and 6 is known as Hıdırellez, a festival that marks the start of spring and summer in parts of the Middle East and in particular among Turkish-speaking communities.
The night of May 5 and day of May 6 are known as Hıdırellez or Hızırellez, a festival that marks the start of spring and summer in parts of the Middle East and in particular among Turkish-speaking communities. (One has to wonder at the number of festivals that mark the coming of spring.) The word Hıdırellez is supposed to have come from a combination of Hızır (Khidr) and İlyas (Elijah).
Who were these two men and how are they connected?
Khidr and Elijah
Khidr and Elijah praying
Although Khidr is not mentioned in the Quran, Muslim exegetes identify him as the “servant of God” mentioned in Q 18:65. The story of Moses and Khidr is widespread in Muslim and Jewish stories of the medieval period.
Khidr is also associated with immortality and fertility. These are also attributes given to Elijah who is mentioned in the Quran. It is also reported that Elijah and Khidr meet every uear during the month of Ramadan in Jerusalem, that they perform the Pilgrimage together every year, and that they drink from Zamzam enough to keep them until the next year. It is also said that they meet in Arafat each year.
Khidr (which means Green Man in Arabic) has been tied to early Middle Eastern legends of spring, the renewal of warm weather among the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians, the reflowering of plants and the growth of new crops. Similar beliefs and celebrations were to be found among the various peoples of Anatolia and Central Asia. But the origin of Khidr or Hızır is obscure. His name is not mentioned in the Bible or in the Quran. There’s no real explanation as to why this person is called the Green Man (Khidr) although some say it was because the Prophet Muhammad wore a green cloak while others attribute it to his role in the greening of the earth in spring time.
One of the Islamic traditions, however, says that the Prophet Moses went to Ethiopia to acquire knowledge and, while there, he met a man named Khadir (Hızır). In the story, the two men have a fish which they intend to eat; however, they forget it and it gets away. (This is why Hızır is portrayed with a fish.) It’s possible that this was Hızır. The latter is supposed to have then tested Moses by insisting that he not ask the reason why he performed three acts. But Moses was unable to understand the meaning of the actions and impatiently asked why each time, at which point the man refused to teach Moses because of his impatience (Quran, 18: 60-82). Read more here
- The Strange Life of Al-Khidr, the Legendary Immortal Prophet, Mystic, Trickster and Sea Spirit. Read more here
- Middle East
Veneration of St. George as a martyr originates in the Levant, spread from Palestine through Lebanon to the rest of the Byzantine Empire – though the martyr is not mentioned in the Syriac Breviarium – and Georgia in the 4th to 5th centuries. In Georgia, the feast day on 23 November is credited to Saint Nino of Cappadocia, who in Georgian hagiography is a relative of St. George, credited with bringing Christianity to the Georgians in the fourth century. A titular church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine the Great (reigned 306–37) was consecrated to “a man of the highest distinction”; the identity of this man with St. George was asserted by the 7th century. The church was destroyed by Muslims in 1010, but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–92), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–93). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.
Christians in the Middle East continue to celebrate St. George’s Day, and the custom has been adopted in Muslim tradition via identification of the saint with the figure of Al-Khidr and an association in folk belief with medicine and healing.
In Palestinian culture, the feast is held on 5 May. The feast is held in the Palestinian town of al-Khader, just south of Bethlehem. Historically, the feast attracted Arabs from throughout Palestine to visit the Monastery of Saint George. On the morning of 6 May, Palestinian Christians from Beit Jala, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and other parts of Palestine would march in a procession to the monastery.
Palestinian folklore suggests that the feast originated during the Byzantine rule of Palestine. According to the folktale,
“the feast came and the young men stood together making their vows. One said, ‘I will give a goat,’ another ‘I will give a sheep.’ Then Jirjis (Jeries), the son of a widow, desired to offer something. They had but one cow. Then he said, ‘I will sacrifice a cow,’ and he went and killed the cow.”
At evening time his mother called to him and said, ‘Where is the cow?’ He said, ‘I gave it to El Khader. (St. George)’ His mother said, ‘You have cut our lives. Let me not see your face again.’ That night, the young man had a vision. A white haired man appeared to him and said, ‘Fear not, I am El Khader: thou shalt go to Constantinople and to the king’s palace. Only each day thou shalt call a blessing upon me.’ …
Many Christian denominations in Syria[which?] celebrate St. George’s Day, especially in the Homs Governorate. They do this by dressing small children as dragons and chasing them through the streets whilst beating them with clubs and batons. Following this, participants traditionally dine and dance. The monastery of Mar Jurjus (St. George) dates back to the 6th century and is a regional centre of Orthodox Christianity.
- Saint George’s Day in Ethiopia
3rd of Meyazia / ምያዝያ / May 1st is Saint George’s Day in Ethiopia
The rest of the world celebrates it on April the 23rd. St George (the one who slay the dragon, and is almost always pictured on his white horse) is the Patron Saint of Ethiopia.
St. George and The Dragon
The equestrian saint became known in Ethiopia in the fifteenth century when his story was translated into Ethiopic, and he eventually developed into the patron saint of the nation.
St. George was a popular figure throughout the Christian East. He is almost always shown riding a white horse spearing a dragon found beneath him. Sometimes a young woman is shown in a tree symbolizing the princess that he rescues. Unlike other cultures in the East, Ethiopians called her by a name—Brutawit, literally the girl from Beirut.
The Ethiopian story, or life, of St. George is found in the text, Acts, Miracles, and Praises which is thought to have been inspired by a Greek source known through Christian Arabic language versions. Greek influence is also suggested by scholars who point to the legend of Perseus, who slew Medusa in order to save Andromeda, King Cepheus’ daughter. That story might have Ethiopian connections. Another opinion suggests that the equestrian saints, of which St. George is one, were a Coptic (Egyptian) development. Such figures were common in Coptic art during the early Christian centuries and could have influenced Ethiopians. A 5th-century sculpted relief shows the Egyptian god Horus spearing an evil spirit shaped like a crocodile.
Another Serpent Story
St. George was not the only Ethiopian fighter of serpents. The beginning of the Queen of Sheba’s story tells how, in the early days, a snake-dragon named Wainaba /ዋይናባ ruled and devastated the land of Ethiopia. Angabo / አንጋቦ, from the land of the Sabeans [east of the Red Sea], crossed the sea and offered to rid the country of the serpent if the people would make him king. He did not fight or spear the serpent, however, but tricked it into eating a poisoned goat. Angabo was made king. Makeda was his daughter and ruled after he died.
Although no direct connection can be drawn based on what we know, it is interesting to note that early religious cults in Ethiopia featured some snake-like deities or spirits.
The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches were built or rather carved from the rock by king Lalibela in the 13th century to create a ‘New Jerusalem’. In the video: walk around the 11 Lalibela churches, beginning with a morning mass at Bet Giyorgis, and following with Bet Medhane Alem, Bet Maryam, Bet Danaghel, Bet Gabriel-Rafael, Bet Emanuel, Bet Abba Libanos. At the very end – Yemrehanna Kristos church, located in a natural cavern, 40 km from Lalibela, predating the Lalibela churches by a century. The Lalibela Rock Hewn churches are UNESCO World Heritage site.
Saint George is a Patron of:
against skin diseases
against skin rashes
patron saint of Amersfoort, Netherlands
patron saint of Appignano del Tronto, Italy
patron saint of Aragon, Spain
patron saint of agricultural workers
patron saint of archers
patron saint of Arcole, Italy
patron saint of Beirut, Lebanon
patron saint of Boy Scouts
patron saint of butchers
patron saint of Canada
patron saint of Cappadocia
patron saint of Carpeneto, Italy
patron saint of Catalonia
patron saint of cavalry
patron saint of Cerreto Grue, Alessandria, Italy
patron saint of chivalry
patron saint of Constantinople
patron saint of Crusaders
patron saint of England (by Pope Benedict XIV)
patron saint of equestrians
patron saint of Ethiopia
patron saint of farmers
patron saint of Ferrara, Italy
patron saint of field hands
patron saint of field workers
patron saint of Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
patron saint of Genoa, Italy
patron saint of Georgia
patron saint of Germany
patron saint of Gozo, Malta
patron saint of Greece
patron saint of Haldern, Germany
patron saint of Heide, Germany
patron saint of Hone, Italy
patron saint of horsemen
patron saint of horses
patron saint of husbandmen
patron saint of Istanbul, Turkey
patron saint of knights
patron saint of lepers
patron saint of Limburg, Germany, diocese of
patron saint of Lithuania
patron saint of Malta
patron saint of Modica, Sicily, Italy
patron saint of Moscow, Russia
patron saint of Nerola, Italy
patron saint of Order of the Garter
patron saint of Palestine
patron saint of Palestinian Christians
patron saint of Portugal
patron saint of Ptuj, Slovenia
patron saint of Qormi, Malta
patron saint of Riano, Italy
patron saint of riders
patron saint of saddle makers
patron saint of saddlers
patron saint of Senj, Croatia
patron saint of sheep
patron saint of shepherds
patron saint of soldiers
patron saint of Teutonic Knights
patron saint of Venice, Italy
patron saint of Victoria, Gozo, Malta
>see more Patronages of Saint George