In 1348, George was adopted by Edward III as principal Patron of his new order of chivalry, the Knights of the Garter. St George is the patron saint of England and among the most famous of Christian figures although little is known of the man himself. Early writings in 322 AD tells of a soldier of noble birth who was put to death under Diocletian at Nicomedia on 23 April, 303 however no mention was made of his name, country or indeed his place of burial. It is thought George was in the Roman army and held the rank of tribune and was eventually beheaded by Diocletian for protesting against the Emperor's persecution of Christians. George rapidly became venerated throughout Christendom as an example of bravery in defence of the poor and the defenceless and of the Christian faith.
The Acts of St George, which recounted his visits to Glastonbury while on service in England were translated into Anglo-Saxon. George was subsequently adopted as the patron saint of soldiers after he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army in 1098 at the Siege of Antioch and won a great victory. It was told how George had appeared to Richard the Lionheart during his Crusade against the Saracens and was to serve as a great encouragement to his troops. He became the great "knight in shining armour" to which every young Englishman aspired. His legendary tales of heroism were gradually transferred from Palestine by the returning armies through Europe, across to England.
Many similar stories were transmitted to the West by Crusaders who had in turn had heard them from troops in the Byzantine army, these stories were subsequently circulated further by the troubadours. In 1191- 92 when King Richard 1 was campaigning in Palestine he put his army under the protection of the banner of St George. This banner which depicts the red cross of a martyr on a white background was to became the flag of England and also the White Ensign of the Royal Navy. During Edward 111's campaigns in France in 1345- 49, pennants bearing the red cross on a white background were ordered for the king's ship and uniforms in the same style for the men at arms.
The virtues associated with St George and indeed the chivalry of the knights of the Garter, such as courage, honour and fortitude in defence of the Christian faith, remain as important as ever. St George is also venerated in the Church of England, by the Orthodox churches, the Churches of the Near East and by Ethiopia. The supposed tomb of St George can be found at Lod near Tel-Aviv and in a convent in Cairo there are personal objects which are believed to have belonged to George.
There are several stories which are associated to Saint George, the best known being the 'Golden Legend' in which a dragon lived in a lake near Silena, Libya. Although whole armies had gone up against this fierce dragon all were defeated. The villagers pacified the creature by feeding it two sheep each day, however when mutton was scarce lots were drawn in local villages, and maidens were now to be substituted for the sheep. When St George heard about the plight of the villagers and that a princess was to be eaten, he crossed himself, rode to battle against the beast and killed it with a single blow with his lance. George then held a magnificent sermon and converted all the villagers, He was then given a large reward by the grateful King which George swiftly distributed to the poor, before riding away.
St George is venerated as the patron saint in a large number of places today, including Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece, Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice when St George is second to St Mark.