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Truth behind the real figure of St George

Contributed by Steve Bonham on 30.03.2007:

The Leicester Mercury has a daily circulation of 73 000

Opinion Leicester Mercury 29th March

It is a strange but little-known fact that the patron saint of England did not live in this country but in Palestine. Indeed, St George still has a place in Palestinian culture and is often linked to the Islamic figure of Al Khader. Now, a Leicester group is highlighting these links through a children’s art competition in the city. Children in Bethlehem and elsewhere in Palestine are also participating.

This is a tremendously positive move. For most of us, St George is a meaningless figure, We know the legend that he killed a dragon. We know that he is our patron saint and that the cross of St George is the flag of England. Beyond that, we have little idea about why he occupies such a revered place.


Unfortunately, the reasons behind his status as our patron saint are not cause for much celebration. During the crusades of the Middle Ages he was said to have “appeared” to the crusaders to urge them on in their campaign, which involved the wholesale slaughter of Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem in 1099. He then became regarded in England as a special saint. ,In fact, St George, who lived in a much earlier period, would most likely have been appalled by the massacres of the crusades, as he was a victim of religious persecution himself. He was tortured and beheaded on the orders of a Roman emperor because he would not renounce his Christianity. We are delighted to now see the figure of St George being highlighted as a symbol of unity between Christians and Muslims, and the importance of living together in peace. It makes him a lot more relevant to our lives today in a world in which there continues to be so much division and violence. it makes St George’s Day an occasion worth celebrating all the more.


BY ANAS KASAK Leicester Mercury 29 March 2007

Most of us only know him as the hero who slayed the dragon and as our patron saint.

However, it is a little-known fact that St George did not even live in England but in Palestine, where he is also revered as an icon.

With St George’s Day approaching, a Leicester group is celebrating his place in the history of both cultures.

The Leicester-Bethlehem Link Group (LBLG) is aiming to create awareness of the historic figure with the release of a new book called ‘Saint George – The Palestinian who became the Patron Saint of England.’

The group has also organised a children’s art competition, inviting youngsters from the city and Palestine to sketch an image of the iconic hero.

Pete Flack, spokesman for LBLG [and assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Leicester, they mailed the book and details of the competition to Leicester schools], said: “It is known he was born in Palestine, about two miles from Bethlehem. A lot of people don’t know thi s. [ Peter is probably wrong about this. As the book states the usual story is that he was born in Turkey but after his father’s death returned with his mother to her estates in Lydda Palestine. The connection with Al Khader village near Bethlehem is a claim that it was one of his mother’s homes in which he stayed. This is feasible. Before the creation of Israel the hill villages around Bethlehem were popular summer resorts for the Palestinian elite when they wished to escape the stifling heat of the Mediterranean coastal strip.]

“He is a hero over there as well, and Palestinians often link St George to the Islamic figure Al Khader.

“There are many traditions about St George or Al Khader that are shared by Christians and Muslims in Palestine.”

The group has now distributed the book, which is called Le icestershire Holy Land Appeal, [This is badly worded, Anas earlier gave the correct title of the book, it is published by Leicestershire Holy Land Appeal] to schools throughout the city.

A public display of the best children’s art submitted from Leicester and from the Bethlehem area in Palestine will be on display at the Festival of Alternatives, at Regent College, Leicester, on the May Bank Holiday.

Mr Flack said: “In the future there is the possibility of e-mail exchanges leading to video conferencing with 14 to 17-year-olds in Al Khader from children in Leicester.”

The book reveals St George’s home town and burial place is the Palestinian town of Lydda.

Two miles from the Church of Nativity, in Bethlehem, is the village of Al Khader in which there is a church of Saint George.

Dr Sam Riches, who studied medieval history at Leicester University, has written a book called St George, hero, martyr and myth.

She said: “I certainly agree with the idea he was born in Palestine and he is a symbol who is looked up to by both Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

“Al Khader translates as the Green One and he is known as the figure of healing, protection and fertility. St George should be seen in terms of celebrating the need for tolerance with other cultures.”

The cult of St George in England began growing during the fourth and fifth centuries, and St George’s Day is on April 23.

The Norman invaders were very interested in St George and that probably helped to spread his popularity in this country.

Richard the Lionheart was also a devotee, and the Crusaders recast the saint in their image as they rampaged through the Middle East.

References to his fight with a dragon can first be found in medieval manuscripts.

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