Saint George III: Combining Symbols and Legends

Today is Part 3 of our Saint George Special.  We are looking at how the legend of Saint George inspired so many nations to adopt him as their patron saint and fly his flag.  If you missed the previous articles, click the following: Part 1, Part 2.

In today's article, we are looking at how a symbol from the Second Crusade came to be associated with Saint George, as well as his role in the Third Crusade.

Bernat Martorell's
Saint George Killing the Dragon
Red Cross
At the end of the First Crusade, the crusaders had conquered Jerusalem and many other cities in the Holy Land.  However, Saladin, the famous Muslim sultan and military leader, launched a series of attacks against the Crusader states; leading many European leaders to declare a Second Crusade (1147 - 1149).  This was the first time that many soldiers, such as the Knights Templar, wore white tunics emblazoned with a red cross.  The red cross was not associated with Saint George yet, but it would be linked to the Crusades.

Third Crusade
The Second Crusade proved disastrous for the Crusaders as they lost many battles and cities -  the most important being Jerusalem.  Of course, this meant another Crusade would be necessary to reclaim the Holy Land.  This time many nations and city-states wanted to really show off their Christian zeal and many had their armies adopt some version of a cross on their banners.  France used a red cross on a white field and England chose a white cross on a red field.* 

The army most responsible for connecting Saint George to the red cross appears to be Genoa.  The powerful Italian city-state had adopted Saint George as its patron saint and flew a flag with George slaying a dragon alongside their red cross flag.  Seeing an image of Saint George would have helped Genoa stand out from the other red and white cross patterns.  Thus, the association of Genoa, a red cross, and Saint George became synonymous. Therefore, even though the red cross flag and the Saint George flag flew separately, people slowly began referring to the red cross flag as the "Saint George flag".  To this day, Saint George's red cross flag is the official flag of Genoa.

In the next article, we will look at other countries that have adopted Saint George's flag and why.

Thanks for reading.

*Note: England's modern flag is just the opposite, a red cross on a white field. (More on this later) Many other states also chose to use white crosses on a red field - the Holy Roman Empire used the white cross as its war flag.   Adaptations of this flag can be seen in the modern day flags of Denmark and Switzerland.
Flag of Denmark
Flag of Switzerland
 For more on how the Third Crusade led to the adoption of new flags, check out our article on Austria's flag.

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