Saint George I: The Warrior Saint

Saint George has been adopted as the patron saint of many nations and many of them have adopted his flag.  How much of his story is reality and how much is legend is still heavily debated, but his influence is undeniable.  He has been painted by artists ranging from Raphael to Peter Paul Rubens, and sculpted by Donatello and Salvador DalĂ­. Cross into our special feature on how Saint George left his mark across time and nations and why many countries continue to fly his flag.   

In today's article, we are looking at the origin of Saint George in the Roman Empire.

Diocletian ruled Rome at the end of the 3rd Century.  He is known both for a brief restoration of order and for establishing the basis of the Empire's East-West divide. The sometimes brutal methods he used to restore order led to the Roman Empire's last major persecution of Christians.  Thus begins the legend of Saint George.

A soldier in the Roman military during Diocletian's reign, George was said to be a favored soldier. He was also a Christian.  To flush out Christians from within the military ranks, all soldiers were ordered to make a sacrifice to a Roman god.  George and many other Christians refused and proudly proclaimed their faith.  Because of how favored George was in Diocletian's eyes, the emperor offered George riches, land, and slaves if he would only recant his faith.  George boldly refused and Diocletian ordered his torture and execution.

After Constantine became ruler in the early 4th Century and established Constantinople as the new Roman capital, Christians were free to practice their religion, which eventually became the sole religion of both the East and West Empires.  Many had lived through (or were only one generation removed) from Diocletian's persecution.  The stories of George and the other Christian soldiers that were martyred were still very vivid and steadily spread across the growing Christian population. 

By the beginning of the First Crusade (1095), George had been venerated as a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church.  It was during this First Crusade that soldiers besieged at Antioch and on the brink of death received Saint George's divine intervention.

To be continued....

In the next installment, we will look at the Siege of Antioch, Saint George's intervention, and the first associations of George and the red cross. 

Thanks for reading.

For more about flags and the Crusades, check out our article on the creation of Austria's flag.

For more on countries with a common theme in their flags, check out our articles on countries with the Southern Cross Constellation on their flags:  Part 1 and Part 2

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