Roman Saint George
15th Century Saint George
In the past Comitatus has been asked to provide various versions of Saint George for clients, yet very little is known about the real St George.
He is thought to have been born into a noble Christian family in the late third century in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey. He followed his father's profession of soldier and became part of the retinue of the Emperor Diocletian. The emperor ordered the systematic persecution of Christians and George refused to take part. In 303, he was himself tortured and executed in Palestine, becoming an early Christian martyr.
We should perhaps see Saint George as a typical Roman cavalryman from the period, here shown in the Deurne Helmet deposited in around AD 319, a long way from the traditional view of the saint.
He is generally honoured on the 23rd April by the Christian denominations, but is also associated by the Muslims with the prophet Elijah and cures for the mad. He is not only the Patron Saint of England, but also Bulgaria, Aragon, Catalonia, Romania, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia, plus a host of cities, the island of Gozo and a wide range of professions, organisations and disease sufferers.
Saint George is generally depicted slaying a dragon representing either Satan, paganism or the Roman Empire. The legend was brought back to England by the Crusades, and Saint George became one of the most popular soldier saints. Today we portray Saint George as a wandering knight using the arms of a red cross on a white background, shared with the Crusader Knights of the Temple of Solomon, the famous Templars. These knights defended pilgrims in the Holy Land, and defended the borders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem against both hostile Christians and Muslims. This rider from around AD 1170 perhaps shows a more traditional view of Saint George.
Until the 14th century Saint George was obscured by Edward the Confessor, the traditional patron saint of England, Edward III put his Order of the Garter under the banner of St. George, probably in 1348. The chronicler Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War. In 1552 all saints' banners other than George's were abolished in the English Reformation, leaving the red cross preeminent. This Comitatus photo shows an English style armour of the mid to late 15th century, worn with a jousting helmet. Perhaps the ultimate expression of the power of the knightly Saint George.