Saint George and the Dragon | Town Hall Saarbrücken | Germany | D700
Saint George, born in Lydda, Roman Palestine, was a soldier in the Roman army and was later venerated as a Christian martyr. Saint George became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April (6 May), and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints. The episode of St. George and the Dragon was a legend brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Romance. The earliest known depiction of the legend is from early eleventh-century Cappadocia (in the iconography of the Eastern Orthodox Church, George had been depicted as a soldier since at least the seventh century); the earliest known surviving narrative text is an eleventh-century Georgian text. In the fully developed Western version, which developed as part of the Golden Legend, a dragon or crocodile makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of “Silene” (perhaps modern Cyrenein Libya or the city of Lydda in the Holy Land, depending on the source). Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep can be found, then a maiden is the best substitute for one. The victim is chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She is offered to the dragon, but then Saint George appears on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the Cross, slays the dragon, and rescues the princess. In the medieval romances, the lance with which St. George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, named after the city of Ashkelon in the Levant. The “Colours of Saint George”, or St George’s Cross are a white flag with a red cross, frequently borne by entities which claim him as patron.