How 'English' is Saint George?

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How 'English' is Saint George?

The real history of England's patron saint

Ælfgif-who? provides short biographies of early medieval English women. Click on the podcast player if you’d like to hear this newsletter read aloud in my appealing Yorkshire accent.

Illustration by Pollie Scott

How 'English' is Saint George? The real history of England’s patron saint

Today is the feast of Saint George, England’s patron saint. The official flag of England represents his most recognised symbol, the Saint George’s Cross, a red cross on a white background. A martyr saint who is now best known for his dragon-slaying, George has also become symbolic of England, ‘Englishness’, and more malevolently, English nationalism. This is despite legends placing his birth in Asia Minor hundreds of years before the nation of England existed, and his cult’s original development around his tomb in Palestine. Instances of devotion to St George’s cult can be found in early medieval England, but his status as England’s patron saint did not begin to develop until the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. So how ‘English’ is Saint George really?

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