According to tradition, St George (c256/285AD-303AD) was a Roman soldier from the eastern part of the Empire, who served under the Emperor Diocletian (284-305AD). Venerated as a Christian martyr, many fanciful stories about his deeds emerged over the centuries, including the most famous of all legends – the tale of St George & the Dragon.
Originating in the east, and brought back to Western Europe by the Crusaders, the story of St George & the Dragon revolves around a village threatened by a plague-bearing dragon. Originally appeasing the evil beast with a steady supply of sheep, the townsfolk were then forced to select their own children by lottery to sacrifice to the Dragon.
Ultimately, the King’s own daughter was chosen, and, following the townsfolk’s refusal of his wealth and property in return for her safety, the Princess was sent to the lake where the Dragon lived. Whilst she awaited her gruesome fate, St George appeared. Refusing the Princess’ plea to escape, St George waited for the dragon, and when it emerged from the lake, he fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross, charged at his foe and dealt the dragon a grievous blow with his lance.
According to legend, St George and the Princess led the wounded Dragon back to the town. Upon receiving a promise from the townspeople to convert to Christianity, St George killed the Dragon, with a church built on the spot where the lethal strike was delivered.
Enshrined in art, literature and, of course, coinage, for approximately the last 1,000 years, the tale of St George & the Dragon, whilst varying slightly across cultures, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most celebrated folkloric tales. Today, Patronages of St George exist in many nations and cities around the world, including England, where the Cross of St George forms part of the national flag.
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