Stories of Saint George, the patron saint of chivalry, have been recounted in many lands for seventeen centuries.
It is believed that the historical figure of George was born in Cappadocia (present-day Turkey) around AD 280. He enlisted in the Roman army under the emperor Diocletian and soon exhibited skills sufficient to warrant promotion to the command a regiment of 1,000 men.
The emperor and his eventual successor, Galerius, were convinced that enforcement of the pagan traditions of Rome would facilitate their rule, and the resultant insubordination of Christians led to great persecutions. As a Christian convert, George took courage from his convictions and tore down an edict of the emperor, publicly denouncing him for his cruelty and injustice. For this action he was imprisoned and tortured. Tradition states that, refusing to recant, George was beheaded near Lydda in Palestine on 23 April 303.
The fame of this martyr quickly spread and churches were built in his honour across Asia and Europe in the succeeding centuries. Somewhat later, inspired by his legends, the Crusader knights adopted him as a patron, which further spread his cult when they returned to their homelands. Art, literature and ongoing chivalric fraternities then took up the cause – and the legend of his slaying of a dragon appeared.
Today, St. George is a truly international figure, who means many things to different people. As well as being the patron saint of many countries, he is the patron saint of soldiers, and holds a special place in the affections of Christians in Africa and the Middle East. In following the inspiration of St. George, members of the Order of St George seek to make a positive a difference in their world, particularly through helping the Christian communities of the Middle East, and supporting the welfare of NATO and Commonwealth armed forces personnel.
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