GEORGE, SAINT: Christian martyr, the patron saint of England; b. of a noble Cappadocian family in the third century; d. about 303. That the Roman army possessed an officer of high rank by the name of George (Lot. Georgius), who suffered martyrdom in the Diocletian persecution after repeatedly professing his faith, can scarcely be doubted, although the year of his death is uncertain. Churches were erected in his honor at a very early period, as at Thessalonica in the fifth century, while Gregory of Tours is witness to the wide extension of his cult in the Occident. Gregory the Great is said, on somewhat doubtful authority, to have restored a church of St. George in Rome, identified with Santo Giorgio in Velabro.

According to the acts of his martyrdom, which are late and historically valueless, St. George resigned his commission shortly after the outbreak of the Diocletian persecution, and bore zealous testimony against the informers and persecutors. After the emperor had sought in vain to induce him to apostatize, the saint was condemned to die by the sword, whereupon he distributed all his property among the poor and prayed fervently for the constancy of his fellow Christians. According to some sources, he was martyred at Lydda in Palestine, and according to others at Nicomedia in Bithynia. The only point of agreement concerning the date of his death is in the statement that the day was Apr. 23.

The chief points in the development of the cult of St. George in the Eastern Church were the erection of a number of churches in his honor in Constantinople and of a monastery near the Hellespont, whence the latter was called St. George's Arm; the building of many churches to him in Armenia and the name of Georgia applied to the country to the north; and the tribute paid to him in Russia, where the Czars bear his effigy in the center of their coat of arms. In the West St. George became one of the fourteen "Helpers in Need" (q.v.) and the patron saint of the Republic of Genoa, as well as of the English Order of the Garter and of many military orders. The English crusaders of Richard Caeur de Lion were under his special protection, and a decree of a national council held at Oxford in 1222 made his day (Apr. 23) a holiday for all England. Since the later Middle Ages the Western universities have regarded this saint as the patron of artists. St. George first ap pears as the slayer of a dragon and the liberator of a maiden from her chains in the late medieval period, and in this aspect is a legendary Christian recrudescence of Perseus, influenced by the Ger manic Siegfried.

(O. Zöckler†.)

Bibliography: The various legends, under the titles of Acta, encomium, miracula, passio, and translation, are collected in ASB, April, iii. 117-163 and appendix, pp. xx.xlv.; cf. Analecta Bollandiana, i (1882 ), 615-617. Consult P. Heylin, Historie of that Famous Saint and Soul dier . . . Saint George of Cappadocia, London, 1633; T. Lowiek, Hist. of the Life and Martyrdom of Saint George, ib. 1664; J. Milner, Historical and Critical Enquiry into the Existence and Character of St. George . . ib. 1795; P. Heber, Die vorkarolingischen christlichen G laubensheZden am Rhein, pp. 273-283, Frankfort, 1858; F. Görres, in ZWT, 1887, pp. 54-70; E. A. W. Budge, The Martyrdom and Miracles of St. George of Cappadocia. Coptic Texts with Eng, Transl., London, 1888; St. George, Champion of Christendom and Patron Saint of England, London, 1907.


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