DT #44: Saint George & the DRAGON

Posted by Master of Drankgons on

St. George is England’s patron saint. The legend of Saint George and the Dragon describes the saint taming and slaying a dragon that demanded human sacrifices.  According to the Christian hagiography, St. George (275-303 AD) became a venerated Christian martyr after winning a battle against a dragon therefore saving thousands of lives.  There are many versions of the story of St. George slaying the dragon, but the most popular one involves him saving a damsel in distress.

 A town that was terrorized by a dragon decided to appease him by offering a princess. Upon hearing the news, St. George marched towards the dragon’s lair and slayed him right across his wings (for the wings were scaleless and vulnerable). 




Margaret Hodges retold the legend in a 1984 children's book, which won some awards for its illustrations.


Another famous thing to come out of this story is Saint George's Red Cross, also called the Cross of Saint GeorgeSaint George rose to the position of "patron saint" of England after the English Reformation, and since the early modern period his flag came to be identified as the national flag of England.

There's also an Australian professional rugby team called the St. George Illawarra Dragons, which represents both the Illawarra and St. George regions of New South Wales. The club has competed in the NRL (that's "National Rugby League) since 1999 after a joint-venture was formed between the St. George Dragons (est. 1921) and the Illawarra Steelers (est. 1982). 



Ok, history, blah blah blah. But WHAT ABOUT THE DRAGON? I had to dig deeper on this story to learn more about the dragon, because what kind of lame dragon becomes associated with a story like this. After going down some Internet rabbit holes, I discovery the truth... IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY AGAIN THE DRAGON, which was never originally in the story.

One extremely trustworthy website revealed that at the beginning of St. George's "cult," there was no dragon in his stories. The most ancient representation of St. George dates back to the first half of 10thcentury and can be found in Armenia, in the church of the Holy Cross built on the isle of Akdamar. Here a bas-relief shows three saints riding and, among them, George can be identified, represented as he spears not a dragon, but an anthropomorphous figure.

The other two knights are St. Sergius killing a fierce animal (in the middle) and St. Theodore, who appears to be fighting a snake (on the left). In frescoes and in bas-reliefs, St. George was always represented together with Theodore who was fighting against his own dragon. For this closeness, artists ended up by associating both saints to the dragon, up to the point that George was completely “assimilated” to the artistic theme of the dragon. 

In the meantime, around the image of St. George killing the dragon a whole story started to be developed: The more the saint was venerated, the more the story was enriched with details, such as the dragon being an evil satanic creature. Starting from the 12th century, the image of the fight against the dragon as a satanic creature becomes more and more widespread all around Europe, as it is shown in painting…

in sculpture...

and in illumination...

And there you have it. Totally fake news. Originally, there was no dragon in this story that Saint George killed. It was a stupid snake, and it wasn't even Saint George who killed him. Humans totally made that part up in the name of religion, and chose to classify the dragon as an evil creature. One might say that this was the first "fake news" social media campaign ever created. The dragon is completely exonerated. There was no collusion with Satan. BOOM. Stupid story. I will not be telling this story to my child.


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