23 April is St George’s Day. Very little is known about St George except that there are no grounds to doubt he existed and he was a soldier in the Roman army. It is likely he was of Greek heritage and was martyred for his Christian faith round about 300, but certainly over the years his story has become mingled with that of other Georges and other saints.
George was particularly popular as a military saint from the Crusaders onwards – even being used on a WW1 recruitment poster. The St George’s Cross flag probably originated in the city of Genoa in Italy – who had taken George as their patron and created the flag in about 1218.
King Edward III made him England’s patron saint in 1350, ousting Edward the Confessor, but he is patron saint of plenty of other countries and cities including Greece, Catalonia, Moscow and Ethiopia. He is also patron saint of farmers, horses and those suffering from skin diseases.
Despite being known in England from the 9th century, the dragon-slaying element of George’s story seems to first appear in the 12th century, probably in tales brought home by the Crusaders. The most commonly told version of the story is of a dragon guarding a pond in Libya. The townspeople give it sheep every day as a trade for being left in peace, but the trade increases until the dragon demands two children every day, whose names are drawn in a lottery. When the Princess’s name is drawn she is dressed up and packed off to be eaten but, as luck would have it, George is passing by. He has a fight with the dragon and then puts the Princess’s girdle around its neck and leads it into the city. George offers to kill the dragon if the people convert to Christianity, which they do. Variations place the dragon in Egypt and Berkshire.
In 1969 George was demoted to ‘optional worship’ due to doubts about his history, but he was reinstated in 2000.
St George over the years has developed into a brand. A man in a suit of armour with a spear and a dragon is instantly recognisable as St George. And, speaking of brand…
As you’ll have noticed on our website, we’ve brought Restore’s five different businesses together under a single brand so that whenever you see the green circle of the ‘o’ you’ll know it’s a Restore company – a guarantee of customer service excellence, leading-edge technology and industry expertise, whichever part or parts of the group you do business with.
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Find out more about the man and the legend at these three marvellous museums: