The real truth of St George is difficult to unravel and although much is written about him it is hard to disconnect the facts from legend. Most sources believe that he was a Christian knight, born in Cappadocia and serving in the army of the Emperor Diocletian.
The legend of St George and the dragon however is well known and certainly a frequent image in art. The story goes that he was riding one day in the province of Libya and came to the city called Silene. Now the citizens of Silene were terrorised by the presence of a dragon, with foul breath and an insatiable appetite. Of course although placated by offerings of sheep, there is nothing quite as delicious as a beautiful girl, preferably of noble birth. And so the king’s daughter is to be sacrificed. No one has offered to take her place, so her fate seems inevitable.
But as in all good stories, the handsome knight appears, subdues the dragon with his lance, fastens the princess’s belt around the dragon’s neck and returns with them both to the village. The people, thankful for their safety, convert to Christianity and St George kills the dragon.
The image of St George, Paddington
Based on the famous icon of St George and the Dragon from the Novgorod School (15th Century), this collage in pen, ink and wash, by Earl Backen, depicts St George in the precincts of our church in Paddington.
The symbolism of the icon is very rich. The horse represents strength and power, and the man riding the horse is a traditional symbol of controlled power and strength. The horse is powerful but well within the saint’s control.
St George struggles for supremacy over the forces of evil, subduing but not necessarily destroying them. Although the struggle is hard, the image depicts neither pain nor suffering.
The saint is peaceful and calm in his work and the dragon seems resigned to his defeat.