Who was St George? The Secrets of England’s Patron Saint

Who was St George? The Secrets of England’s Patron Saint

This Thursday is St George’s Day, a day celebrating the patron saint of England. It might seem strange to a visitor that St George’s Day isn’t as widely celebrated in England as St Patrick’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, so we’ve collected some interesting facts about St George, to give him the attention he deserves.

A red rose is the national flower of England

1. Did you know that the traditional way to mark St George’s Day is to wear a red rose in your button hole? The red rose is England’s national flower, a symbol that dates back to the reign of Henry VII. Perhaps 2015 is the year to revitalise this tradition?

2. St George was made the patron saint of England in the 14th Century, replacing the previous patron Saint Edmund the Martyr.

3. St George is thought to have been a Roman soldier who never actually visited England. Legend has it that he objected to the Romans’ torture of Christians and was ultimately killed for his beliefs.

4. Many know the St George legend that he slayed a dragon to save a princess. You won’t be surprised to find that this is factually incorrect! It is thought this legend exists because in the Middle Ages, the dragon was often used to symbolise the devil. Therefore George’s defeat of the dragon is symbolic of his fight against evil.

St George slaying a dragon

5. It’s believed that St George was actually born in Turkey in the 3rd century.

6. As well as being the patron saint of England, St George is also the patron saint of many other countries, including Russia, Ethiopia, Portugal, Greece and Lithuania.

7. He is also the patron saint of farmers, soldiers, scouts and sufferers of leprosy and the plague!

8. Britain’s most celebrated writer and poet – William Shakespeare was born on St George’s Day in 1564 and died on St George’s Day in 1616 – how very patriotic of him.

9. Due to the Shakespeare connection, 23rd April is also UNESCO’s International Day of the Book.

If you want to celebrate English culture, why not take afternoon tea on the Thames or visit Stonehenge?

Images from Garry Knight, Kris Williams, and Coventry City Council via Flickr.