St George is considered the patron of knights, soldiers, scouts, fencers and archers, among others; he is also invoked against the plague and leprosy, and against venomous snakes.
As in the case of other saints wrapped in legend, the story of St George serves to remind the world of a fundamental idea, that good ultimately triumphs over evil. The fight against evil is a constant in human history. It is a battle we cannot win on our own. Saint George was able to kill the dragon because God was acting in and through him. With Christ, evil will never have the last word.
Countless stories are told about St. George, including the famous episode of the dragon and the girl saved by the saint. According to the standard version of the legend, we hear that in the city of Selem in Libya, there was a large pond where a terrible dragon lived. To appease it, the inhabitants offered him two sheep a day and later a sheep and a child drawn by lot. One day the king’s daughter was chosen, and while she was heading toward the pond, George passed by and pierced the dragon with his spear; a gesture that became a symbol of faith triumphing over evil.
George, whose name in Greek means “farmer,” was born to a Christian family in Cappadocia around the year 280. After moving to Palestine, he joined the army of Diocletian. On February 24, 303 A.D., Diocletian, who hated Christians, announced that every Christian the army passed would be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods. George refused to abide by the order and told Diocletian, who was angry but greatly valued his friendship with George’s father. As George announced his beliefs before his peers, Diocletian was unable to keep the news to himself. In an effort to save George, Diocletian attempted to convert him to believe in the Roman gods, offered him land, money and slaves in exchange for offering a sacrifice to the Roman gods, and made several other offers that George refused. Finally, after exhausting all other options, Diocletian ordered George’s execution. In preparation for his death, George gave his money to the poor and was sent for several torture sessions. He was lacerated on a wheel of swords and required resuscitation three times, but still George did not turn from God.
On April 23, 303 A.D., George was decapitated before Nicomedia’s outer wall. His body was sent to Lydda for burial, and other Christians went to hounor George as a martyr.
Saint George’s feast day is celebrated on April 23, but if it falls before Easter, it is celebrated Easter Monday.