church catholic roman
GEORGE, SAINT, according to Metaphiastes the Byzantine liagiologist, whose narrative is substantially repeated in the Roman Ada ,S'andornra and in the Spanish breviary, was born in Cappadocia of noble Christian parents, from whom he received a careful religious training. Having embraced the profession of a soldier, he rapidly rose under Diocletian to high military rank. When that emperor had begun to manifest a pronounced hostility towards Christianity George sought a personal interview with him, in which he made deliberate profession of his faith, and, earnestly remonstrating against the persecution which had begun, resigned his commission. He was immediately laid under arrest, and after various tortures, finally put to death at Nicomedia (or, according to other accounts, at Lydda) April 23,303. His festival is observed on that anniversary by the entire Roman Church as a semi-duplex, and by the Spanish Catholics as a duplex of the first class with an octave. The day is also celebrated as a principal feast in the Greek Church, where the saint is distinguished by the titles iacyaXO,uain-up and rpozatos5Opos.
In the canon of Pope Gelasius (494) George is mentioned among the martyrs whom the Roman Church venerates, but whose gesta it does not read.' The language implies that even at that date much had been written concerning him, but little that the Catholic Church could accept as trustworthy. Numerous traits from the biography of the heretical archbishop had already crept, it would seem, i n to the acta of the orthodox soldier ; and it was feared that any vigorous attempt to eliminate these would leave but a small residue of fact. Modern investigation has proved that apprehension to have been well-founded, for even on the Catholic side in the controversy regarding the existence and character of St George, the chief contention is simply the improbability that within the space of 150 years a turbulent and unscrupulous Arian ecclesiastic should have conic to be reputed a holy martyr for the Catholic faith. The caution displayed with regard to St George in the 5th century was not long preserved ; Gregory of Tours, for example, asserts that his relics actually existed in the French village of Lc Maine, where many miracles were wrought by means of them ; and the Venerable Bede, while still explaining that the gesta of St George are reckoned apocryphal, commits himself to the statement that the martyr was beheaded under Dacian, king of Persia, whose wife Alexan d ra, however, adhered to the Catholic faith. The dragon was a still later introduction into the legend, which, as given by Jacobus de Voragine and later writers, ceases to represent the hero as in any sense a sufferer. In its current popular form the story of his successful conflict is probably a mere modification of the old Aryan mythus, to which many interpreters are now disposed to attach a solar interpretation.
The popularity of the name of St George in England dates from the time of Richard Coeur de Lion, who, it was said, had successfully invoked his aid during the first crusade ; but it was not till the time of Edward III. that he was made patron of the kingdom, although at the council of Oxford in 1222 it had already been ordered that his feast should be kept as a national festival. The republics of Genoa and Venice were also under his protection ; and his name is much revered in all the Oriental churches.
See lieylin, The History of that 'most famous Saynt and Solddier of Christ Jesus, St George of Cappadocia (1631) ; and Milner, An Historical mu? Critical, Inquiry into the Existence and Character of St George, Patron of England (1795). For some account of the numerous artistic representations, whether of his martyrdom or of his triumph, see Jamieson's Sacred and Legendary Art, vol. ii.