St George ‘cradling’ or ‘choking’ a baby dragon?
(Nuremberg Chronicle 1493)
… Like Michael, the St George we know today is something of a construct.
Historically, George appears to have been a third century greek conscript in the Roman army,
who, having converted to Christianity, was martyred, that is, put to death for his religious beliefs.
His execution, by decapitation, reputedly took place outside Nicodemia’s city wall
sometime between 290 and 305 AD, on the 23rd day of April,
which subsequently became his Christian Feast Day.
It does seem odd how the day of this event is clearly
and accurately recorded for posterity yet the year is not!
St George’s cult initially developed in the Eastern Mediterranean.
There is a shrine dedicated to him in Abyssinia
and another in the village of Al-Khudr in Palestine.
Al-Khidr, after whom the village is named, is also venerated there.
The Mohammedans identify Al-Khidr as the Biblical Elijah
whilst Christians regard him as an ‘avatar’ of St George.
Al-Kidhr’s Feast Day of 26th April is known as
‘The Feast of Spring which makes everything green’.
Al-Khidr means the green, or verdant, one, or alternatively,
The multifarious carvings of leaf disgorging heads
which, to this day, adorn many a church, and cathedral column or cranny
in ecclesiastical buildings the length and breadth of the British Isles,
are believed by some to be representations of Al-Khidr, the green one.
Here, then, is one, if not two candidates,
for the mantle of that mysterious Green Man
so beloved of the pagan fraternity worldwide.
There are, though, lots of others…
In Mediaeval times, tales of St George the dragon slayer began to circulate.
According to some of these stories George was born in Coventry
even though many of his exploits took place in the east.
His first encounter with a dragon occurred in Egypt…