By: Daniella Palmiotto
One of the cool things about traveling around Italy is that each town has at least one patron saint, and oftentimes they are early saints. I filmed this video while in the town of Locorotondo in the region of Puglia. I went to Mass here at the mother church in this town dedicated to their patron saint, St. George the Martyr. I realized that I did not know anything about St. George!
I did some research and am sharing it with you! He was born in modern-day Turkey but is considered a national hero of Britain. It is believed that he died in Lydda in modern-day Israel in the Roman province of Palestine in 303. The details of his life are not certain. It is likely that he was an officer in the Roman army. He was a martyr and it is believed that he was tortured and decapitated during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. He was martyred for refusing to make a sacrifice in honor of the pagan gods. He is very well-known in England even though he never visited England because his reputation for virtue and holiness spread throughout Europe and England began celebrating him in the 9th century. The St. George cross, a red cross on a white background, was used on banners during the reign of Edward I who lived in the 13-14th centuries. The St. George cross began to represent England during the reign of Henry VIII.
A lot of the paintings of St. George, including the painting behind the altar of this church, depict him slaying a dragon. The story of the dragon post-dates the life of St. George by several centuries but the story goes that he saved a town in modern day Libya from a dragon which was threatening the lives of the people and in particular, the life of the princess. The images of St. George slaying a dragon have survived since the 9th century and probably were initially used to represent the battle between good and evil but were embellished during the Middle Ages.
He is the patron saint of England and was adopted as the Medieval patron of Venice, Genoa, and Portugal. He is also the patron saint of various other towns, including this town of Locorotondo. During the Middle Ages, St. George was one of 14 Holy Helpers who was invoked during epidemic diseases including the Plague and leprosy. His feast day is April 23. Pope Gelasius said George was one of those saints “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.” He was canonized in the year 494 (*I mistakenly said 495 in the video).
Prayer for the intercession of St. George the Martyr: “St. George, heroic Catholic soldier and defender of your faith, you dared to criticize a tyrannical Emperor and were subjected to horrible torture. You could have occupied a high military position but you preferred to die for your Lord. Obtain for us the great grace of heroic Christian courage that should mark soldiers of Christ. Amen.”
Resources: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/whats-on/st-georges-day/9-things-you- didnt-know-about-st-george/ https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-George