St. George was born sometime before 300 A.D. Historians still debate about when exactly he was born––but they estimate his death to be around 303 A.D. Though historians are not sure about when his birth occurred, they do know he was born to Gerontios and Polychronia, a Roman officer and a Greek native of Lydda––both of whom were Christians and from noble families.
Orphaned when he was only a teenager, George joined the Roman army, and when he was in his late twenties, he served on the imperial guard for the Emperor Diocletian. Soon, Diocletian’s opinion on Christians became clear, and he decreed that every Christian encountered by the army would be arrested, and at the same time, every soldier would offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods.
George, a faithful Christian, refused to follow the order of the emperor, and Diocletian became very angry––though he was hesitant to punish George because of the relationship he had with George’s father. However, once George made his faith clear to his fellow soldiers, Diocletian knew he would have to punish George. But first, he thought he might try to convert him. He offered George land, money, and slaves to convince him to sacrifice to the Roman gods, but George refused all offers. Diocletian then decided to proceed with George’s execution.
George gave all of his money away to the poor in preparation of his death. He endured many torture sessions, including being lacerated on a wheel of swords. Throughout all of his suffering, George never turned his back on God.
If George’s brave martyrdom is not enough of a story, George is most famous for his legendary battle with a dragon. The story says that a dragon or crocodile made its nest at a spring where people at a nearby village in modern day Libya got their water. The people were unable to retrieve their water with the dragon nesting there, so the people tried to get rid of the dragon. The dragon would leave temporarily when the people would lure it away with a sheep, but soon the problem would face them again. Eventually, the people decided that the sacrifice of a sheep was not enough to keep the dragon away, so they decided they should sacrifice a maiden instead. Straws were drawn, and the princess was chosen as the sacrifice. The king begged them to spare her life, but she was offered to the dragon anyway. This is when George steps in: he approached the dragon, made the sign of the cross, and slayed the dragon and saved the princess. The townspeople were so grateful to George that they all converted to Christianity.
St. George is depicted most often in art slaying a dragon. He is often seen with the red cross on his shield and a red cloak or palm branch to signify his martyrdom.
St. George is the patron saint of England, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Malta, Gozo, and Portugal.