Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hurrah for St. George and England!

This is me in my silver hat presenting a copy to the winner of a drawing in Fargo last weekend.  She is Solveig Bjorndal, from Norway.

Today at 2 pm, I (as Monica Ferris) will come to a book club at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park to talk about the Betsy Devonshire series.  The members have decided to open the meeting to the public.

On Saturday, April 28, from 1 to 5 pm, St. Peter, Minnesota, will hold a Book Festival at their Community Center.  Put on by Gustavus Adolphus College, the event will feature readings, panels, and appearances by more than a dozen area authors – including me.  (http://www.vita.mn/event_detail.php?event_id=130526)  St. Peter is a pretty little town on the Minnesota River, once proposed as the capitol of Minnesota.  I used it as the scene of a murder in Thai Die.

Yesterday was the Feast of St. George, the patron saint of England – as St. Patrick is of Ireland, and St. Andrew is of Scotland.  St. George is a very early saint, always described as a soldier.  He lived in early Christian times, and his most popular legend is a story about his slaying a dragon that had become a severe menace to a city in a pagan land.  It lived in a lake outside the city gates.  The city fathers tried to placate it by giving it two sheep a day, but in the manner of these things, two sheep quickly became a child, two children and finally a virgin, one a day.  At last there were no virgins left except the ruler’s daughter.  Trying to save her, the ruler offered heaps of gold and silver if someone would kill the creature.  There were no takers, so the young woman was dressed in white and taken out to be given to the dragon.  She was chained to a rock and the people withdrew.  But along came Sir George, carrying his trusty lance and a sword called Ascelon.  The bride warned him to flee, but he wouldn’t, and when the dragon rose from the water Sir George wounded it severely with his lance.  He told the bride to tie her girdle (an embroidered length of cloth, like a belt) around its neck.  She did and the dragon instantly became tame as a puppy.  They led it back into the city, terrifying the inhabitants, but George said that if they’d all convert to Christianity, he would finish the dragon.  They all hastily agreed, and he cut it into four pieces with his sword.  All the citizens were baptized and he had them build a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  By the sixth century St. George was held up as a knightly ideal all over Christendom.  I’m not sure how he came to be the patron saint of England. 

There are many versions of this legend, whose origins may date back as far as ancient Mesopotamia, and countless Christian depictions of it in paint, stone, metal and stained glass.   During World War II Winston Churchill had a plane assigned to him, and he named it Ascelon.

A document found in the seventeenth century in the Vatican tells George’s real story.  He was a soldier in the third century.  His father was a pagan senator named Gerontius, his mother a Christian who raised her son to be Christian, too.  His father died young, leaving a fortune to his widow.  George joined the Emperor Diocletian’s army and soon after tore down an edict ordering Christians to be persecuted.  He was arrested, tortured by being dragged behind horses, refused to recant and was executed by beheading on April 23rd, which is why his feastday was yesterday.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Interesting legend, Monica, and it's also interesting to learn what was probably the real background of St. George. People clearly had vivid imaginations way back then, just as we do today!

Betty Hechtman said...

What a fabulous hat!