St George of Merrie England

Susan here – St. George’s Day was just this week on April 23, a day noted in England, as he’s their chivalric patron, with his red cross Saint-George-and-the-Dragon-John-Fastolf
on white incorporated in the British flag; and himself on a horse vanquishing a dragon is a familiar sight and symbol in the British canon, where he's as well known for dragon-slaying as for chivalry. And St. George holds a special place in my heart – years (and years) ago, my doctoral thesis focused on the iconography of St. George in medieval art, especially in conjunction with the Virgin Mary. My research focused on the fact that George and Mary were often paired up in the medieval era as models of the ideal knight and ideal lady, superlatives in a chivalric age of icons. When he wasn’t defeating a dragon or rescuing a princess, he was often caught posing with Mary as a pair of paragons.

A good portion of my academic life in those days was spent tracking down images of St. George with and without the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary), from the obvious to the obscure, and I had a great time digging into the material and solving little iconographic medieval puzzles that no one else had paid attention to before – and the research for that project taught me a great deal about the nature of the hero and heroine archetypes – which came in handy later for writing novels.

I’ve blogged about St. George here before, so this year, to mark his holiday, I’m sharing some images of George (with and without his friend the Blessed Virgin).

So hats off to good St. George, the finest knight in Christendom and Merrie England!

Saint_george_and_the_dragon_1966.1.1

Perhaps my very favorite image of St. George, the princess, and the dragon – by Rogier Van der Weyden, in the National Gallery, Washington DC, ca. 1435. 

"May I come in, St. George?" said the Boy politely, as he paused at the door. "I want to talk to you about this little matter of the dragon, if you're not too tired of it by this time." – Kenneth Grahame, The Reluctant Dragon

Raphael  st george
A gorgeous little St George and the Dragon – by Raphael, 1505, also in the NGA, Washington DC. 

Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. – G.K. Chesterton

Saint-george-protecting-princess-from-dragon-c1470-lombard-school-tempera-on-wood-anonymous-album

 A formidable princess and a rather mild George, and a dragon opening his mouth for the thrust like a baby bird waiting for food. Italian School, late 15th century, Museum Martinegro.  

I have little doubt that when St. George had killed the dragon he was heartily afraid of the princess. —G.K. Chesterton

Ms illumination dragon      

St george 12th c french citeaux  

Two examples of dragons in illuminated manuscripts — one a handsome hirsute George elegantly incorporated into an initial (12th century French). 

There is no such a thing as an impossible, but only a thing the doing of which has not yet been learned.
― 
Gordon R. Dickson, The Dragon and the George 

St-george-killing-dragons-vellum-bedford

A page from the gorgeous Bedford Hours, made for the Duke of Bedford, 15th century, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. George's entire story is shown in a rotation of images, from martyrdom to heroic dragonslaying and princess-rescuing to sainthood.

Notice how the princess calmly leads the dragon away on a leash even as George is still spearing it! 

Van Eyck Madonna of Canon Van_der_Paele

The absolutely stunning "Madonna with Canon Van der Paele and Saint George and Saint Donatian" by Jan Van Eyck, 1436, Groenige Museum, Bruges – here's an example of St. George in close proximity to the BVM. Exquisite details include the reflection of the artist seen in St. George's armor, bringing the saint to life in the very room with the artist. Another wonderful detail is the magnification of the letters on the page seen through Canon Joris Van der Paele's eyeglasses. Jan_van_Eyck_-Madonna_with_Canon_van_der_Paele_detail st george     

Loyet-Reliquary-of-Charles-the-Bold-Brussels-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Echoing the Van der Paele figures, this gold reliquary statue represents Charles the Bold of Burgundy under the special protection of Saint George – about 1470. 

Dante_Gabriel_Rossetti_-_The_Wedding_of_St_George_and_Princess_Sabra

"The Wedding of Saint George and the Princess Sabra" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1857, Tate Gallery. Rossetti was fascinated with St. George mythology and produced paintings, illustrations, and stained glass designs depicting various parts of the story – including elements of a medieval tale (included in a manuscript version of the French epic Huon de Bordeaux) in which St George not only married the princess, but also traveled with her on a long journey. In the old tale (not illustrated in Rossetti's work, either because he wasn't aware of it, or had the sense to leave it alone) George and Sabra, accompanied by the dwarf King Oberon, encounter Mary and Joseph on a mountainside, where George and the princess help deliver the Baby Jesus. I kid you not. 

Gary larson dragon phyllis
Gary larson dragon phyllis

Finally, two cartoons that gave me hope in my graduate studies, pinned in a place of honor on my bulletin board. Gary Larson had his own insights into the theme of the knight and the dragon. 

Happy Belated Saint George's Day! May chivalry and paragons (and dragons) bring you luck! 

50 thoughts on “St George of Merrie England”

  1. You always have such interesting art work accompanying your blogs. But I have to say, I especially enjoy the two cartoons at the bottom. First giggle of the day. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. You always have such interesting art work accompanying your blogs. But I have to say, I especially enjoy the two cartoons at the bottom. First giggle of the day. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. You always have such interesting art work accompanying your blogs. But I have to say, I especially enjoy the two cartoons at the bottom. First giggle of the day. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. You always have such interesting art work accompanying your blogs. But I have to say, I especially enjoy the two cartoons at the bottom. First giggle of the day. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. You always have such interesting art work accompanying your blogs. But I have to say, I especially enjoy the two cartoons at the bottom. First giggle of the day. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. What a wonderful post. Thank you. And I agree, I love the art work and all the symbolism. But, the cartoons have made my morning.
    April 23rd – busy day – Shirley Temple’s birthday, Adolf Hitler’s birthday – supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday – and mine – I should be a tap dancing writer who happens to be really bossy and hateful. I will not discuss which of those qualities are actually me. But, I am now going to shuffle off to Buffalo.

    Reply
  7. What a wonderful post. Thank you. And I agree, I love the art work and all the symbolism. But, the cartoons have made my morning.
    April 23rd – busy day – Shirley Temple’s birthday, Adolf Hitler’s birthday – supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday – and mine – I should be a tap dancing writer who happens to be really bossy and hateful. I will not discuss which of those qualities are actually me. But, I am now going to shuffle off to Buffalo.

    Reply
  8. What a wonderful post. Thank you. And I agree, I love the art work and all the symbolism. But, the cartoons have made my morning.
    April 23rd – busy day – Shirley Temple’s birthday, Adolf Hitler’s birthday – supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday – and mine – I should be a tap dancing writer who happens to be really bossy and hateful. I will not discuss which of those qualities are actually me. But, I am now going to shuffle off to Buffalo.

    Reply
  9. What a wonderful post. Thank you. And I agree, I love the art work and all the symbolism. But, the cartoons have made my morning.
    April 23rd – busy day – Shirley Temple’s birthday, Adolf Hitler’s birthday – supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday – and mine – I should be a tap dancing writer who happens to be really bossy and hateful. I will not discuss which of those qualities are actually me. But, I am now going to shuffle off to Buffalo.

    Reply
  10. What a wonderful post. Thank you. And I agree, I love the art work and all the symbolism. But, the cartoons have made my morning.
    April 23rd – busy day – Shirley Temple’s birthday, Adolf Hitler’s birthday – supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday – and mine – I should be a tap dancing writer who happens to be really bossy and hateful. I will not discuss which of those qualities are actually me. But, I am now going to shuffle off to Buffalo.

    Reply
  11. As a major fan of dragons, I’ve never cared much for St. George–after all, what did that dragon do to him? Probably nothing, just ol’ George loved to hunt, etc. But beautiful pictures! And I have the hot pad cartoon among all the other Dragon pictures in the 2 bulletin boards hanging over my desk–always laughed at it. Never saw the other one before–yes, it’s best to look at things from a distance–better perspective! Next question–did the dragon snort at him (covering him in yeuch) or just go back to sleep? Thanks, Susan!

    Reply
  12. As a major fan of dragons, I’ve never cared much for St. George–after all, what did that dragon do to him? Probably nothing, just ol’ George loved to hunt, etc. But beautiful pictures! And I have the hot pad cartoon among all the other Dragon pictures in the 2 bulletin boards hanging over my desk–always laughed at it. Never saw the other one before–yes, it’s best to look at things from a distance–better perspective! Next question–did the dragon snort at him (covering him in yeuch) or just go back to sleep? Thanks, Susan!

    Reply
  13. As a major fan of dragons, I’ve never cared much for St. George–after all, what did that dragon do to him? Probably nothing, just ol’ George loved to hunt, etc. But beautiful pictures! And I have the hot pad cartoon among all the other Dragon pictures in the 2 bulletin boards hanging over my desk–always laughed at it. Never saw the other one before–yes, it’s best to look at things from a distance–better perspective! Next question–did the dragon snort at him (covering him in yeuch) or just go back to sleep? Thanks, Susan!

    Reply
  14. As a major fan of dragons, I’ve never cared much for St. George–after all, what did that dragon do to him? Probably nothing, just ol’ George loved to hunt, etc. But beautiful pictures! And I have the hot pad cartoon among all the other Dragon pictures in the 2 bulletin boards hanging over my desk–always laughed at it. Never saw the other one before–yes, it’s best to look at things from a distance–better perspective! Next question–did the dragon snort at him (covering him in yeuch) or just go back to sleep? Thanks, Susan!

    Reply
  15. As a major fan of dragons, I’ve never cared much for St. George–after all, what did that dragon do to him? Probably nothing, just ol’ George loved to hunt, etc. But beautiful pictures! And I have the hot pad cartoon among all the other Dragon pictures in the 2 bulletin boards hanging over my desk–always laughed at it. Never saw the other one before–yes, it’s best to look at things from a distance–better perspective! Next question–did the dragon snort at him (covering him in yeuch) or just go back to sleep? Thanks, Susan!

    Reply
  16. Thank you, Susan, for an enjoyable post. You can count me as one more who laughed at those two Larson pieces.
    I’m reminded of the saying: Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy And Good With Ketchup!

    Reply
  17. Thank you, Susan, for an enjoyable post. You can count me as one more who laughed at those two Larson pieces.
    I’m reminded of the saying: Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy And Good With Ketchup!

    Reply
  18. Thank you, Susan, for an enjoyable post. You can count me as one more who laughed at those two Larson pieces.
    I’m reminded of the saying: Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy And Good With Ketchup!

    Reply
  19. Thank you, Susan, for an enjoyable post. You can count me as one more who laughed at those two Larson pieces.
    I’m reminded of the saying: Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy And Good With Ketchup!

    Reply
  20. Thank you, Susan, for an enjoyable post. You can count me as one more who laughed at those two Larson pieces.
    I’m reminded of the saying: Meddle Not In The Affairs Of Dragons For You Are Crunchy And Good With Ketchup!

    Reply
  21. A children’s story, a young girl’s romance fantasy story to be saved, protected by a Christian, strong, courageous Knight who would slay the dragons (fight the dangers,) keep her safe & happy ever after. I bought children’s book versions of the story & sent them as gift to my friends who had children.

    Reply
  22. A children’s story, a young girl’s romance fantasy story to be saved, protected by a Christian, strong, courageous Knight who would slay the dragons (fight the dangers,) keep her safe & happy ever after. I bought children’s book versions of the story & sent them as gift to my friends who had children.

    Reply
  23. A children’s story, a young girl’s romance fantasy story to be saved, protected by a Christian, strong, courageous Knight who would slay the dragons (fight the dangers,) keep her safe & happy ever after. I bought children’s book versions of the story & sent them as gift to my friends who had children.

    Reply
  24. A children’s story, a young girl’s romance fantasy story to be saved, protected by a Christian, strong, courageous Knight who would slay the dragons (fight the dangers,) keep her safe & happy ever after. I bought children’s book versions of the story & sent them as gift to my friends who had children.

    Reply
  25. A children’s story, a young girl’s romance fantasy story to be saved, protected by a Christian, strong, courageous Knight who would slay the dragons (fight the dangers,) keep her safe & happy ever after. I bought children’s book versions of the story & sent them as gift to my friends who had children.

    Reply

Leave a Comment