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National Theatre Blog

Ten things you (possibly) didn’t know about Saint George

Saint George is the patron saint of England. You knew that. You might also know that he’s the subject of our latest Olivier play, Saint George and the Dragon. But here are ten things you probably didn’t know about the mythic man*.

 

  1. Saint George was a Roman soldier, born in Cappadocia in the province of Syria Palaestina.

  2. He lived and died in around the 3rd century CE. Mentions of the dragon story start around 1,000 years later, with the medieval and renaissance idea of a miles Christi, which is Latin for ‘knight of Christ’.

  3. He was beheaded around 303 for refusing to deny his Christianity. The emperor Constantine ended up converting nine years later. Poor George.

  4. As well as England, Saint George is the patron saint of Malta, Gozo, Portugal, Romania, Aragon, Catalonia and, as the name might suggest, Georgia. The country isn’t actually named after him, though. That’s a happy coincidence.

  5. There are 365 churches in Georgia which claim to hold part of his body. Legend has it that in his last battle, he was cut into 365 pieces, each of which now resides in a different place of worship. That means you could tour the country and see a different relic every day in a different place. Unless it’s a leap year, in which case you get a day off.

  6. He’s also the patron saint of scouting (and proud owner of the only ‘slaying a dragon’ badge).

  7. Saint George is an important figure in Ethiopia. Not only is there an important church named after him, there’s also a football club and a beer. Saint George FC are the current Ethiopian champions, so his power clearly lives on through them.

  8. The earliest mention of Saint George in the UK was by the 7th-century Abbot of Iona, Saint Adamnan. He’s said to have heard it from a French bishop, so he essentially came to us through a medieval European gossip network.

  9. Saint George was made patron saint of England by Edward III, who is a direct ancestor of Danny Dyer, who was mentored by Harold Pinter. What we’re getting at is there’s a theatrical connection.

  10. Despite what anyone says, he did kill a dragon. Dragons were real, then Saint George killed them and now they’re not**.

 

The good thing about our new play is that you don’t need to know any of this coming in. It’s a new story about Saint George, which reimagines a figure that’s been changed and co-opted over the years. Visit the Saint George and the Dragon page.

 

*Actually, the jury is still out on whether he existed at all. Anything we’ve said about his life can probably be prefaced with ‘If he existed…’

**Some of the facts are not facts