St George: Let's Hear it For England!
by Alison Maloney
Pope Gelasius, who canonized St George in 494, described him as one of those 'whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God.' The story of England's Patron Saint is so encased in myth and legend that the truth of his remarkable life is unknown to the great majority of us.
In many ways the attitude of the English, reflects the many contradictions in the story of St George and the growth of his legend worldwide. A Christian martyr, murdered by a Roman emperor in Palestine, he is a legendary dragon-slayer who saved a virgin princess from sacrifice - but not before insisting her entire town converts to Christianity. Yet he is also the model for mythical Islamic hero Al Khidr. He is the Patron Saint of England but never set foot on English soil and the legend of his knightly deeds came from the imagination of a bishop in Italy.
In recent years, through national pride more than religious fervour, the popularity of St George's Day has risen sharply, with more parades, parties and pub get-togethers than we saw in the latter half of the twentieth century.