Saint George Slaying the Dragon
|Dimensions||0.0 × 24.5 × 28.5 cm|
Saint George Slaying the Dragon. Russian wooden icon.
Saint George (AD 275–281 to 23 April 303), according to legend, was a Roman soldier of Greek origin and officer in the Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
In hagiography, as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers and one of the most prominent military saints, he is immortalised in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon. His memorial, Saint George’s Day, is traditionally celebrated on the Julian date of April 23 (currently May 6 according to the Gregorian calendar). Numerous countries, cities, professions and organisations claim Saint George as their patron.
His parents were Christians of Greek background; his father Gerontius (Greek: Γερόντιος Gerontios) was a Roman army official from Cappadocia, and his mother Polychronia was a Christian and a Greek native from Lydda in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina (Palestine). Accounts differ regarding whether George was born in Cappadocia or Syria Palaestina, but agree that he was raised at least partly in Lydda.
Saint George is one of Christianity’s most popular saints, and is highly honored by both the Western and Eastern Churches. A wide range of devotions, traditions, and prayers to honor the saint have emerged throughout the centuries. He has for long been distinguished by the title of “The Great Martyr” and is one of the most popular saints to be represented in icons. Devotions to Saint George have a large following among Christians, and a large number of churches are dedicated to him worldwide.
After the thirteenth century, a large portion of the art, iconography and legendary traditions associated with Saint George and many festivals that celebrate him involve the legend of Saint George and the Dragon.
The association of Saint George with the dragon was not attested to until the twelfth century version of Miracula Sancti Georgii (Codex Romanus Angelicus 46, pt. 12, written in Greek). Jacobus De Voragine, the thirteenth-century archbishop of Genoa, helped promote the legend of the dragon with his publication of The Golden Legend around 1260. By the fourteenth century the Golden legend had become one of the most popular religious works of the Middle Ages and helped spread the legend of the dragon.] In De Voragine’s version of the legend, the dragon was in the city of Silena in the province of Libya in the middle east. However, as the tales were carried across Europe, the location of the dragon varied. For instance in some German versions the dragon would come to the area above the village of Ebingen and would disappear into the southern slope of Schonberg mountain in Liechtenstein. In these legends, Saint George slays a dragon to liberate a princess and is thanked by the town people.
In Russia, the story of Saint George and the Dragon passed through the oral tradition of religious poems (dukhovny stikhi) sung by minstrels and fused the story of the martyrdom of the saint with the western legend of the liberation of the princess from the dragon.