St George and Chivalry

St George and English/British Chivalry
In1348, George was adopted by Edward 111 as principal Patron of his new order of chivalry, the Knights of the Garter. It is possible that the Order took its name from a pendant badge or jewel traditionally shown in depictions of Saint George. The insignia of the Order include a Collar and Badge Appendant, known as the ‘George’. The badge is of gold and includes a richly enameled representation of St George on horseback slaying the dragon. A second medal, the Lesser George, also depicting George and the dragon, is worn attached to the Sash. The objective of the Order was probably to focus the efforts of England on further Crusades to reconquer the Holy Land.
The earliest records of the Order of the Garter were destroyed by fire, but it is believed that either in 1334 or 1348 Edward proclaimed St George Patron Saint of England. Although the cult of St George was suppressed in England at the Reformation, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, completed in stages from 1483 to 1528, has remained the official seat of the Order, where its chapters assemble. The Monarch and the Prince of Wales are always Members, together with 24 others and 26 Knights or Ladies Companion.
Much later, in 1818, the Prince Regent, later George IV, created the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George to recognize exemplary service in the diplomatic field. The Order was founded to commemorate the British protectorate of the Ionian islands and Malta, which had begun in 1814. Originally membership was limited to inhabitants of the islands and to Britons who had served locally. In 1879 membership was widened to include foreigners who had performed distinguished service in all Commonwealth countries… The medal of the Order shows St George and the Dragon on one side and St Michael confronting the Devil on the other with the inscription, ‘auspicium melioris aevi’ (‘augury of a better age’).


St George: Literary connections

Literary Connections
The fame of St George throughout Europe was greatly increased by the publication of the Legenda Sanctorum (Readings on the Saints), later known as the Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend) by James of Voragine in 1265. The Legend is not explicitly about St George but to a whole collection of stories, which were said to be worth their weight in gold.
It was The Golden Legend which made the legend of George and the Dragon known and famous. The legend may have been particularly well received in England because of a similar legend in Anglo-Saxon literature.
The origin of the legend is uncertain. It first appears in the late 6th century and may have been an oblique reference to the persecution by Diocletian, who was sometimes referred to as ‘the dragon’ in ancient texts. It may also be a Christianized version of the Greek legend of Perseus, who was said to have rescued the virgin Andromeda from a sea monster at Arsuf or Jaffa), where the cult of St George grew up around the site of his supposed tomb.
Saint George is a leading character in one of the greatest poems in the English language, Spencer’s Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). St George appears in Book 1 as the Redcrosse (sic) Knight of Holiness, protector of the Virgin. In this guise he may also be seen as the Anglican Church upholding the monarchy of Elizabeth1:
But on his breast a bloody Cross he bore
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge we wore
And dead (as living) ever he adored.
The legend of St George and the dragon took on a new lease of life during the Counter Reformation. The discoveries in Africa, India and the Americas, which maps had previously shown as populated by dragons, presented vast new fields for Church missionary work and St George was frequently used as an example of danger faced and overcome for the good of the Church. John Bunyan (1628-88), used the story of George and the Dragon. as the basis for the fight between Christian and Apollyon in Pilgrim’s progress.

St George

St George

St George is the patron saint of England and among the most famous of Christian figures, yet, he is also one of the saints about whom little or nothing certain is known. The first known possible record of him is in about 320 AD. Eusebius of Caesarea tells of a soldier of noble birth who was put to death under Diocletian at Nicomedia on 23 April, 303, but makes no mention of his name, his country or his place of burial.

According to the fifth Century apocryphal ‘Acts of St George’ still in use in various versions in Orthodox churches, George was a tribune in the Roman army who was beheaded by the Emperor Diocletian for protesting against the Emperor’s persecution of Christians. George rapidly became venerated throughout Christendom as an example of bravery in defence of the poor and the defenceless and of the Christian faith.

George was probably first recognised in England by Arculpus and Adamnan in the early eighth century. The Acts of St George, which recounted his visits to Caerleon and Glastonbury while on service in England, were translated into Anglo-Saxon, though the dates of these visits, if they were actually made, are not certain.
Because of his widespread following and the many miracles attributed to him, George became universally recognized as a saint sometime after 900. A church at Doncaster was dedicated to St George in 1061.
George was adopted as the patron saint of soldiers after he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. Many similar appearances were reported to European countries by Crusaders who had heard them from Byzantine troops. When Richard 1 was campaigning in Palestine in 1191-92 he put the army under the protection of St George.
George’s military feats seem to have been known to Shakespeare given the famous lines from Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1, l. 31 at the onset of the battle of Agincourt:
‘I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry God for Harry, England and St George!’
The banner of St George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the overshirt uniform of English soldiers possibly in the reign of Richard 1, and later became first the flag of England and subsequently the White Ensign of the Royal Navy.
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