The martyr St. George is well known because of the many popular legends about him; the historical facts about his life, however, are less well known and much more prosaic than the myths suggest. George lived in the third or fourth century, and was probably martyred about 303 in the Palestinian city of Lydda. It was there that veneration of him as a soldier-saint began, though the Church initially recognized that it knew little about his actual life (as late as the sixth century he was referred to as merely a good man “whose deeds are known only to God”).
Unreliable legends about St. George developed in the Middle Ages; he was supposedly a knight from Cappadocia whose rescue of a maiden from a dragon in Libya prompted a large number of conversions. Other stories about him are also without factual basis, but St. George is nonetheless considered a patron saint of England, Portugal, Germany, Aragon, Genoa, and Venice.
1. The legend of St. George fighting and overcoming the dragon (a traditional symbol of evil) reminds us of God’s care: “Under the Lord’s wings you shall take refuge; His faithfulness is a buckler and shield. You shall not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).
2. People — including Christians — have a natural need for heroes, and stories about the saints — even if based on uncertain legends, as in the case of St. George — are a legitimate response to this need.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Adalbert (997), Bishop, Martyr