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St. George the Great Martyr is thought to have lived in the late third century in an area which is now in Turkey. He was born into a noble Christian family at a time when it was a crime to be a Christian. In fact, for three centuries after the birth of the Church, Christians were intermittently persecuted by leaders of the Roman Empire. Besides having their churches and scriptures burned, Christians were often tortured, imprisoned, beheaded, killed by gladiators or thrown to the lions.
As a young man, George became a soldier in the army of the Emperor Diocletian. In the year 303, when the emperor ordered the systematic persecution of Christians, George refused to take part. He presented himself before the Emperor and publicly denounced this action. For this he suffered numerous tortures and was eventually executed , his remains being taken to Lydda in Palestine, the birthplace of his mother. It is believed that because of the steadfast Christian witness and martyrdom of St. George, many soliders were converted to Christ, and other people as well, among them Queen Alexandria, the wife of Diocletian, and a pagan priest, both of whom also suffered martyrdom for their decision.
George became highly revered in the Christian world and many legends arose giving fantastic accounts of his life. The most famous is the legend of St. George slaying a dangerous dragon in order to rescue a beautiful maiden. Thus the icon of St. George commonly displays the saint on a horse, in battle with a big dragon. The dragon is symbolic of the Evil One who attacks God's Holy Truth, or the Church, which is often signified in icons as a beautiful maiden. The Saint's lance is surmounted by a cross, symbolic of Jesus Christ, who Himself was triumphant over sin and evil, and through whom every Christian finds strength. Because he was victorious in his struggle, St. George is considered the defender and protector of the Church of Christ.
St. George is popularly venerated and has been adopted as the patron saint of many nations of the world. He was the patron saint of the Kyivan Grand Prince Yaroslaw the Wise (978- 1054) and continues to be greatly favoured among Ukrainian people. St. George's Cross ( a rectangular red cross on a white background), a popular symbol used by Crusaders and other soldiers in battle, also appears on the flag of England. His feast day is April 23 (May 6), the day of his martyrdom.
“You fought the good fight with faith,
O Martyr of Christ, George;
you exposed the perversion of the persecutors
and offered an acceptable sacrifice to God. Therefore, you also received a crown of victory and through your prayers, O Holy One,
obtained the forgiveness of sins for all. “
Tropar of the Feast of St. George.