St.George was a Roman soldier serving in the Guard of Diocletian. He was born to a Christian noble family in Lod, Syria Palestina sometimes between 275 and 285 AD. His father was a Roman army official. After the death of father and mother George went to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms and by the late 20s George was promoted to the rank of a Tribunus and stationed in the imperial guards of the Emperor.
That’s when Diocletian issued an edict that every Christian soldier should be arrested and all other soldiers should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods of the period. George spoke up against the edict and refused any attempt of Diocletian to convert him. The Emperor was left with no other choice (of course he had another choice, but none he would have chosen) but to execute George. George prepared for his death by giving his wealth to the poor. After severe torture he was decapitated.
His martyrdom was witnessed by the Empress Alexandra and a pagan priest called Athanasius. It convinced them to become Christians as well and join George in his tortures. Alexandra is commonly depicted in the Saint George pictures, witnessing his fight with the dragon.
A legend told about St. George is that of him slaying a dragon. The story was brought back by Crusaders and retold in many ways. According to the legend a dragon makes his nest at a spring that provides water for a town. In order for the town people to get water now they have to peace the dragon with a sacrifice – either a sheep or, if no sheep is available, a maiden (because sheep and maiden are rather interchangeable). The victim is chosen by lot and one day it is the princess. Though her father pleads for her life, she isn’t spared and offered to the dragon. That’s when St. George appears. He protects himself with the sign of the cross, wounds the dragon severely and makes him the princess’ pet on a leash. The grateful citizens convert to Christianity.
The dragon in the legend can be stand for three things: the Roman Empire, Satan and the dark side in every one of us. It is in this light that one has to notice that the dragon in the legend is not killed but tamed.
St. George is the most prominent military saint and the patron saint of England. His cross forms the national flag of England and is featured in the Union Jack. But Saint George is also a very important saint of Orthodoxy depicted in many icons. His feast day is April 23.