St George: who was England’s patron saint, what did he do, and what’s the legend of George and the Dragon?

England is celebrating St George’s Day on 23 April with many flying the St George’s flag to commemorate the country’s patron saint

Whether he slayed a dragon or not, the story of St George has been told over a millenia, and on St George’s Day we celebrate England’s patron saint.

The St George’s cross - a red cross on a white background - is said to portray the same emblem he had on his shield which is still recognised as England’s national flag.

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The red cross of St. George is now widely used at sporting events, flown by churches, local authorities and other organisations as a sign of patriotism and a symbol of national pride - and remembers the day the patron saint died.

The St George flag is often flown from civic buildings on the national day. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

So who was St George, what did he do and what’s the story behind the dragon slayer?

Who was St George?

Not much is really known about St George - other than he is believed to be the first knight in shining armour.

Many say George is from Palestine and was born in his mother’s hometown, now called Lod in Israel. Others say he has Turkish and Greek heritage.

St George's Day is celebrated on April 23 - the day the patron saint of England died. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

According to legend, Saint George was a soldier in the Roman army who rose to popularity during the Crusades.

He was then executed for his Christianity by the Roman Empire in 303AD.

What did he do?

Thanks to his Medieval revival, St George became a popular patron saint.

FC Barcelona has the red and white cross pictured on their badge - as St George is also a patron saint of Catalonia. (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

The martyr’s legend grew with crusaders returning from the Middle East. He is said to have appeared as a miracle before English knights and led them into battle - and then again in World War One.

It was in 1346 at the Battle of Crecy that King Edward III wanted his soldiers to identify themselves by the wearing of the colours of St George.

King Edward III bestowed the position of patron saint of the Order of the Garter, a knighthood for chivalry, to St George in 1348 - and the patron saint

George is also honoured as the patron saint of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal and Serbia.

He is also the patron of Catalonia, the autonomous region of Spain which Barcelona is in.

There the day is called La Diada de Sant Jordi and has romantic connotations.

If you look close enough – you will see England’s flag on the FC Barcelona’s badge.

What’s the legend ofthe dragon?

Whether he slayed a dragon or not his story has stood the test of time.

Legend has it that the so-called dragon slayer never set foot in England but the country adopted George as its saint for his qualities of chivalry in 1415.

While he might never have slayed an actual dragon - the beast is probably meant to depict him refusing to bow down to Roman persecution, good versus evil or his immense bravery.

How do we celebrate St. George’s Day?

St. George’s Day is no longer a public holiday - and hasn’t been for some time.

Schools, banks, shops, post offices, and other businesses have remained open in previous years, while public transport operates at a normal timetable service.

It has been a good excuse for people to head to the pub for a drink or hold family gatherings in the past, although it has a very different look and feel in 2021.

England entered the second step of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, on April 12.

Some Covid rules were relaxed in time for Easter, with people able to meet outdoors in groups of six from 29 March.

Pubs and restaurants can now serve people outside, with customers able to have an alcoholic drink without ordering a substantial meal.

But indoor socialising is still illegal with anyone outside your household or support bubble.