Being ‘born and bred’ in England, I grew up with a familiarity of Saint George’s Day from early childhood. The subject of Saint George came up at school and would regularly be touched upon in British tv programmes and films. In addition, my dear Dad would remind me every 23rd April of the patron saint of England who, according to legend, slew the dragon.
So, Saint George has been in my memory bank for as long as I can remember and yet, I only recently became aware of the international and historical relevance of this particular saint. In speaking to friends and family members, it has become apparent that I am not the only one! So I thought I would share a little of what I’ve learned.
7 Things Most People Don’t Know About Saint George
- Saint George exists in both a traditional, historical story and the famous legend of George and the Dragon.
- In the traditional story, he was from Cappadocia and lived in the 3rd century as a Roman army soldier and member of the Praetorian Guard.
- The legend of George and the Dragon is of 11th century origin in Georgia and within 100 years was established across medieval Europe. Read more on the legend of Saint George and the Dragon courtesy of Wikipedia here and also an old article by the BBC here.
- Saint George became patron saint of England in the 14th century after King Edward III made him the patron saint of the Most Noble Order of the Garter founded by the King himself in 1348.
- In the 20th century, King George VI created The George Cross award – a medal for acts of heroism in the face of extreme danger. Equal in stature to the Victoria Cross which is the highest military gallantry award in the UK, the George Cross carries the image of St George vanquishing a dragon.
- Apart from being the patron saint of England, Saint George is the patron saint of Ethiopia, Georgia, Aragon, Catalonia and Moscow.
- Saint George is also the patron saint of people in a variety of professions including farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, soldiers, archers and cavalry.
Medieval England and Saint George
We have to go back to the writings of an 8th century Benedictine monk Saint Bede to discover the earliest documented evidence in England of the importance of Saint George.
However, it was another 600 years and the medieval era before Saint George became a prominent saint in England. As mentioned in the above list, the medieval English King Edward III made him the patron saint of the Order of the Garter in 1348. It is believed that the King’s act was in gratitude for what he believed to be Saint George’s intervention at the Battle of Crécy (26 August 1346), where the English army led by Edward defeated the army of King Philip VI of France.
From the mid 14th century onwards, the banner of Saint George gradually began to appear increasingly alongside the Royal Banner.
Medieval Recipes Fit For Medieval Kings
A medieval King such as Edward III had many occasions for celebration, whether it was after a victorious battle or to celebrate the founding of a new order such The Order Of The Garter. The celebration would, of course, have featured a medieval banquet at some point and that, in turn, meant that Royal cooks had to come up with some exciting medieval recipes!
The dishes served at a medieval banquet, especially a royal one, were incredibly varied and often exotic, bordering on fantastical! There were usually at least 5 or 6 courses and I discovered a wonderful example of a real medieval banquet menu for which relatively contemporary written evidence exists (Legrand D’Aussy 1455). Roasted meats, delicious fruit, herbs and spices, sauces, pies, desserts and more!