George. I. The patron saint of England, born, it is supposed, at Lydda or at Ramleh in Palestine in the latter half of the 3d century, said to have died in Nicomedia, April 23, 303. He appears to have been brought up in Cappa-docia and to have embraced the military profession. It is the prevailing opinion of critics that Eusebius refers to him in his '"Ecclesiastical History (B. viii., c. 5), in speaking of "a man of no mean origin, but highly esteemed for his temporal dignities," who, when Diocletian's edict against the Christians was posted up in Nicomedia,took it down and tore it in pieces." As the emperor was then present in the city, this deed of one of his officers entailed on the offender the most cruel punishment. Reverence for the sufferer soon extended through Phoenicia, Palestine, and the whole East. A Greek inscription dated 346, on a very ancient church at Ezra, in Syria, mentions George as a holy martyr. Constan-tine the Great built a church over the tomb of the saint between Lydda and Ramleh; and the latter place, which claimed also to be his birthplace, was then called Georgia. In Constantinople a temple of Juno was converted by the same emperor into a church of St. George, to which his remains were translated.
About the same time the name of St. George's arm" was bestowed upon the Hellespont. In Rome, Palermo, and Naples churches also bore his name from a very early date. Queen Clotilde in 509 founded in his honor a convent at Chelles, and Clovis II. a convent at Baralle in Normandy. St. George was honored in England during the Anglo-Saxon period. Under Canute a monastery of St. George was founded at Thetford; St. George's, Southwark, was built a little later; and in the reign of the Conqueror there was a collegiate church of St. George in Oxford. England, Aragon, Portugal, and Genoa chose him as their patron. In 1222 a council held at Oxford ordained that St. George's day should be a national holiday. In 1470 Frederick of Austria instituted an order of knighthood called after him. About 1350 Edward III. made him the patron of the order of the garter. St. George is also the patron saint of Russia. St. George slaying the dragon was the cognizance of the grand dukes until the marriage of Ivan III. with the Greek princess Sophia, when the two-headed eagle, the Byzantine emblem, was adopted.
It is still the emblem of Moscow. The Russian order of St. George was founded by Catharine II. in 1769. Besides the universal veneration in which he is held by Christians in the East, especially in Georgia, the Mohammedans revere him under the appellations of Ghergis and El-Khouder. The historian John Cantacuzenus enumerates several shrines erected by them in his honor; and Dean Stanley found a chapel on the seashore near Sarafend (ancient Sarepta) dedicated to El-Khouder. The George whose relics are shown in St. Germain-des-Pres, Paris, is a Syrian deacon martyred in Spain in 852; but his name is not in the Roman martyrology. The honor paid to St. George the martyr was sanctioned by Pope Gelasius I. in 494, in a council at Rome; but the acts were rejected as unworthy of credit. The crusaders found him honored by the Greeks with the surname of Tropaephoros or Victorious. He is generally represented, according to a comparatively modern legend, as slaying a dragon sent by a magician Athanasius to devour a princess Alexandria. This came from his being confounded with George of Cappadocia.