Feast of St. George, the Great Martyr

St. George, the Great MartyrApril 23

The story of St. George is rich in myth and legend. St. George, a Cappadocian soldier of high rank, suffered a martyr’s death around 303 A.D. during the persecution of Diocletian in Palestine, probably in Dispolis.

The best known legend about St. George concerns his killing a dragon. This tale tells us that near the city of Sylene in Libya there dwelt a monster whose breathe poisoned the whole countryside. Two sheep a day were given to satisfy it; when no more could be found it became necessary to sacrifice it;, when no more could be found it became necessary to sacrifice human beings, the unfortunate person being chosen by lot. One day the lot fell to the king’s daughter. Suddenly St. George, the Christian knight, appeared, fought and killed the dragon on condition that all inhabitants of Sylene believe in Christ and be baptized. The legend adds that some fifteen thousand in all received baptisms.

Icon of St. George spearing a dragon in the Cathedral

The tale, however, cannot be traced further back than the twelfth or thirteenth century being found in the Golden Legend, the Legenda Aurea of Jacopo de Voragine. There are some who think that the story of the dragon may have been derived from an ancient allegory in which the tyrant Diocletian was portrayed as a dragon. Others hold it to be a Christian version of the Theseus myth. Be that as it may, the origin of the story remains most obscure.

In the East, St. George has been classed among the greatest of he martyrs from the beginning, and his popularity is legendary. In the West, his cult is also found very early.

The troparion lauds the deep faith and the miraculous courage of the saint: “You fought the good fight with faith, O martyr of Christ, George; you exposed the perversion of the persecutors and offered an acceptable sacrifice to God. Therefore, you also received a crown of victory and through your prayers, O holy one, obtained the forgiveness of sins for all.” The kontakion calls St. George “a noble sower of piety” who sowed in tears and reaped in joy, and having honorably fought and given his blood, he was received by Christ.”

–Basil Shereghy

Next Feast Days

March 25 Annunciation of the Mother of God
 April 23 Feast of St. George, the Great Martyr
 June 24 Nativity of St. John the Baptist
 June 29 Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul