The Real Saint
Tradition has is that George was born in about 280 AD in Turkey (Cappadocia). A Roman Army Officer, some suggest that he had Christian parents, others that he converted to Christianity after sheltering a Christian.
Christians were a small, but growing minority in the Empire. They faced periods of intense persecution. They often saw themselves as aliens in a foreign land. Things came to a head for George, quite literally, when Diocletian unleashed his terrible persecution of the Christians in 303 AD. He is said to have divested himself of his rank and worldly possessions and journeyed to Nicomedia to plead with Diocletian. He didn’t raise an army, but confessed to his faith and challenged the Emperor’s authority without force of arms. It was an action that he paid for with torture and decapitation.
It is suggested that the witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.
Eusebius of Caesarea, writing c. 322, tells of a soldier of noble birth who was put to death under Diocletian at Nicomedia on 23 April 303, but makes no mention of his name, his country or his place of burial. The historicity, or otherwise, of this story may never be known.
A new painting of St George by Scott Norwood Witts is to be unveiled at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St George, Southwark London on April 23rd, 2008, St George’s Day.
“St George and Dead Soldier” was stimulated by the deployment of British forces overseas and the historical misrepresentation of St George. The patron saint of soldiers and England is shown battle weary, identifying another fatality of war – exploding the contrived mythical identity developed during The Crusades, to reveal a man in mourning. As a high ranking soldier of the Roman Empire converting to Christianity was extremely dangerous, yet his faith inspired him to put down his weapons and personally confront the Emperor Diocletian over his persecution of Christians. The life-sized, but intimate portrait shows the ‘dragon slayer’ as a saint of peace and one who chose debate over violence.
The painting may be seen by clicking HERE.