Happy St. George’s Day!
You may be familiar with the now commonplace image of St. George and his story, as recounted in the Golden Legend, a 13th century collection of the lives of the Saints said to be worth their weight in gold, and the subject of several works of art from VMFA’s collection. St. George is usually depicted as a young, beardless knight in a flowing red cape, sitting astride a white charger tramples & pierces the fearsome dragon thereby saving the maiden. This popular Chivalric version flourished in the Middle Ages and continued to appear in works through the centuries by European artists such as Peter Paul Rubens and Albrecht Dürer and as well as Ethiopian artists and the Fabergé workshops.
The Passion of St. George, recorded during the middle of the fifth century, is different than the fairytalesque version of St. George now so familiar. In that story, there is no dragon and no fair maiden to rescue. This George, reputedly genial and stoic, did not (in comic-book-hero fashion) defeat the monster and get the girl; he was a martyr who died gruesomely defending other Christians against the Great Persecutions of 303 AD.
The Feast of St. George is celebrated by many across the world today, April 23rd, the anniversary of his death. So how did a dragon get involved? Symbolism of course; in Christian art, the dragon is a symbol of evil or wickedness. What dragon will you slay today?