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Saint George of Lydda, April 23rd

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1 Saint George of Lydda, April 23rd on Wed Feb 18, 2009 3:19 pm


Saint George of Lydda, April 23rd

Saint George of Lydda (ca. 275/281 – April 23, 303) was according to tradition, a Roman soldier in the Guard of Emperor Diocletian, venerated as a Christian martyr.

In Christian hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalised in the tale of George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April. He is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.

St. George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Beirut, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Pomorie, Qormi, Lod and Moscow, Scouting, as well as a wide range of professions, organisations and disease sufferers.

Saint George is not commemorated in any early vita or acta that would have some merit as reflecting history and cannot be accounted a historical individual. Chief among the late sources is the Golden Legend, which remains the most familiar version in English owing to William Caxton's 15th century translation.

The traditional legend offers a historicised narration of George's encounter with his dragon: see "St. George and the Dragon" picture. The modern legend that follows is synthesized from early and late hagiographical sources, omitting the more fantastical episodes, to narrate a purely human military career in closer harmony with modern expectations of reality.

George was born to a Christian noble family during the late third century between about 275 AD and 285 AD, in Lydda, Palestine. His father Geronzio was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and his mother from Palestine. They were both Christians and from noble families of Anici (which means "can not be defeated"), so by this the child was raised with Christian beliefs. They decided to call him George meaning "worker of the land". At the age of 14, George lost his father; a few years later, George's mother Policronia died.

Then George decided to go to Nicomedeia, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father Geronzio -- one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedeia.

In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his best official, Geronzio. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.

Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was miraculously resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honor him as a martyr.

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