April 23rd is St George's Day in England. St George is the Patron Saint of England.
Back in the day this used to be one of the most important feast days in the English calendar. Nowadays fewer people tend to celebrate this day although there are still some places like the city of Salisbury which have a traditional annual celebration (sadly cancelled this year due to the coronavirus).
To mark the day I have listed some interesting facts about St George which you may not be aware of:
1. Despite being the Patron Saint of England - St George was not English and probably never visited England! Born in the 3rd century, he was originally from what is now Turkey. He is believed to have been a Roman soldier who became a Christian martyr after he was executed for his faith. He was made a saint in 494 AD.
2. Many years after his death a legend developed that St George had slayed a dragon which was terrorising a city. This is why you will often see St George portrayed as a knight slaying a dragon. Dragons were sometimes used to portray the Devil and so this is possibly how the legend started - a story of good battling over evil.
3. King Edward III, who is said to have owned a relic of St George's blood, made St George the Patron Saint of England in 1350. The famous chapel in Windsor Castle, where Harry and Meghan were married, is named after St George. This chapel is the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter - a group of the most senior knights in the country. New appointments to this Order are announced on St George's Day.
4. The George Cross was created in 1940 as an award for acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in situations of extreme danger. It was intended primarily for civilians. Whilst the cross is named after the King who created the award, the cross bears the image of St George slaying the dragon. The cross is one of the highest awards you can receive for bravery. It is very rare with less than 200 being given out directly. Living recipients of this award are entitled to an annuity from the UK Government - in 2015 this was £10,000.
5. During the Middle Ages St George was considered to be one of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers" who could help during epidemic diseases. People would ask for St George's protection against diseases such as the Plague and leprosy. An interesting fact given our current global pandemic!
I always prefer to use my own photos for the Bath Insider Tours website. Unfortunately the current lock-down has prevented me from getting a good photo to represent St George - however I did find the photo below which I took last year of the West Front of Salisbury Cathedral. The statue above the pointed roof of the arch over the main door (slightly to the left) is of St George standing over a dragon. If you don't believe me - book my Castle, Magna Carta and Stately Home tour - we will visit Salisbury Cathedral on this tour!
Happy St George's Day!