St George’s Day
Elevate artist David Davies discovers the multiculturalism behind the patron saint.
The story of Saint George has travelled through time and across continents and has compelling themes that reflect our modern times.
St George’s Day is celebrated in England on 23rd April 2021, but whilst Saint George is seen by many as a symbol of nationalism in England, his life-story seems to represent times of cultural diversity and change not unlike today. George was born to a Greek family in the 3rd century AD, in what is now modern-day Turkey; his parents were originally from central Turkey and Palestine. He served in an Italian army and lived and died (in AD303) in what is modern-day Israel. Quite a multi-cultural story…
Today, George is an astonishingly popular saint across the world: his patron connections include Brazil, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Russia and Spain. Diversity seems to go hand-in-hand with St George’s story. He is, of course, well known for his dragon slaying and rescuing of princesses in many of these places (though most of the dragon stories were added about 500 years after his death). George rides into a city tormented by a tyrannical dragon, rescues a maiden and offers to kill the dragon if the people convert to Christianity. The image of good triumphing over evil and, in a military context, bravery vanquishing a terrible enemy became set in the stories of many nations.
An immigrant himself, George travelled between the provinces of the vast Roman Empire to find employment. George is famous because he spread, what were then, new Middle Eastern religious ideas from abroad to western civilization – controversial because the Roman Empire had worshiped its native pagan gods for centuries. As an immigrant with a foreign religion, George ended up at the receiving end of discrimination and persecution from the Roman authorities increasingly wary of Christianity’s growing power.
The diversity in Saint George’s story is often reflected in much of our art and creativity that can also support our wellbeing – music, painting, theatre, dance, sculpture, poetry and crafts – often influenced from cultures around the world and that so readily make connections between us all.
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