St George – the main post! What do we know about him, and how do we know it?

Introduction to the St George material

Study: Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition, Ashgate, 2003.  Google Books Preview here.  Essential reading.

St George himself, whoever he was, even he even existed, has left no mark in the historical record.  There is not the slightest mention of such a figure prior to the late 5th century.  He was removed from  the Roman calendar of saints in 1969.

In the late 5th century, archaeology gives us churches, dedicated to Saint George.  Literary sources of the same time likewise mention the veneration of St George.  In 530 we have a mention of his shrine at Lydda ( = Lod, = Diospolis) in Palestine by the pilgrim Theodosius.[1]

Also in the early 6th century we have a Saint’s Life from which all subsequent Lives of the saint derive.  This Life is so silly and so full of absurdities, that it is clearly a piece of fiction, based on nothing but imagination.  It is so bad that we also have an official Catholic condemnation of it, again from the early 6th century, in the Decretum Gelasianum.

The narrative in brief is of a Roman soldier, born in Cappadocia, who becomes a Christian, is put on trial by the emperor Datianus (sic) in Egypt, executed three times(!), and buried at Lydda in Palestine.

During the Dark Ages folk-stories arise of miracles wrought by the saint after his death, in response to prayer.  These continue to come into being until modern times.  The notion of St George the “invincible warrior” appears.

During the crusader period, a version of St George, the Red Cross Knight, is adopted as patron saint of England.  Around the same time, some ingenious person composes the legend of St George and the Dragon, based on the ancient legend of Perseus and Andromeda.  This body of material appears in the Golden Legend of the west in the late medieval period.

In short, we are dealing with fictional material about a figure for whom we have no evidence whatever, and no factual material whatever.  Hagiography as a genre runs across a spectrum, all the way from historical accounts, down through fictionalised or “improved” versions of the facts, until we end up with wholly imaginary saints and wholly fictional Lives.  St George is at the far end of that spectrum.

Bloodstone Cameo with Saint George, 1000-1100, Byzantine, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Early Archaeology and Literature for the veneration of St George

Database: Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity Database,.  St George is S00259 – http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=S00259.  Contains details of all the early archaeological and literary material, with very learned commentary.

These appear in the 6th century, although some inscriptions might be tentatively dated to the end of the 5th century.

It is frequently said that there is a 4th century inscription at Shaqqa in Syria dedicating a church to St George.  The inscription exists, but the dating era is that of the Era of Maximian, and the correct date is 549 AD.  I have written about this here.

The earliest dated inscription to mention St George in fact seems to be at Izra / Ezra / Zorava, also in Syria, again dedicating a church to the saint.  The date is 515 AD.  I’ve written about this item here.

Basilica of St. George (515 AD) – Ezra’ a, Syria

Literary mentions also exist.  An early example is the Itinerarium of the anonymous Piacenza pilgrim (ca. 570), the tomb of St George at Diospolis / Lydda in Palestine is mentioned in chapter 25; a hospice of St George, soldier and martyr in 35[2]

Miracle Stories of St George

Greek text: J.B.Aufhauser, Miracula S. Georgii, Teubner, 1913.  Available online here.

French translation: A.J. Festugière, Sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges. Traduits et annotés, Paris: Picard, 1971.  All the material from Aufhauser is translated.

English translation:  Miracle 6: Daniel J. Sahas, “What an Infidel Saw that a Faithful Did Not: Gregory Dekapolites (d. 842) and Islam”, in: Greek Orthodox Theological Review 31 (1986), 47-67. Based on the text at PG 100, cols. 1201-12.  Online here. –  Other online St George material by David Woods is here – a nice bibliography here, inscriptions here.

Study: J.B. Aufhauser, Das Drachenwunder des heiligen George in der griechischen und lateinischen Überlieferung, 1911. Online here. – Piotr Grotowski, “The Legend of St. George Saving A Youth from Captivity and Its Depiction in Art”, Byzantine Studies, 2001. Online here.

These are  the miracles of St George.  (Notes by me here, and summary of each miracle here):

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The items are given in order of how early they appear in manuscripts.  The collection itself is modern.  More than one version is often printed.  There is no canonical form for any of these narratives; they are folk-stories, retold as often as they were told, in different words.  For this reason Aufhauser’s summaries of the contents are as good as a translation to most of us.

The Lives of St George, Soldier and Megalo-Martyr

Greek text: K. Kumbacher, Der heilige Georg in der griechischen Überlieferung, . Available online here.

Other texts: Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 3.  In the Paris reprint this starts on p.101, here.

Studies: Hippolyte Delehaye, Les légendes grecques des saints militaires, Paris: Librairie Alphonse Picard, (1909) 45-76.  Online here. – John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the History of the Legend of Saint George, with Special Reference to the Sources of the French, German and Anglo-Saxon Metrical Versions”, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, (list of volumes online here), in vol. 17 (1903) and vol. 18 (1904).  Essential reading.  I discuss it here.

For most “saints lives”, the original story is more historical, and later versions acquire miraculous additions.  But for St George it is the other way around; the original story was so ridiculous that it was condemned in 492 in the Decretum Gelasianum, and all later versions show omission.  It tells the story of George of Cappadocia, arrested and tried in Egypt by the emperor Dadianus (??), executed three times, including being torn to pieces, and resurrected each time.  The author of the life is a certain Passicrates.

The “apocryphal” version is not attested earlier than the late 5th century.  Our knowledge of it consists of a 5-6th century palimpsest (Pal.), two more or less complete Latin translations (Gallicanus and Sangallensis), and four Greek manuscripts in various states discovered by Krumbacher.  This version was the basis for all the oriental translations, including Syriac, Coptic, and many others.

The “normal text” appears later, although how much later is unclear.  Dadianus becomes Diocletian, and the account is tidied up.  This in turn is the basis for most subsequent Greek versions, including the Symeon Metaphrastes edition of saints’ legends in the 11th century.

Latin texts are based on a mixture of the apocryphal and normal text.

There is much more detail on all this in my post on the texts of the Martyrdom of St George here.

Other notes

The martyrdom of St George, Solider and Megalo-Martyr, is commemorated on April 23.  I’ve been writing about St George for a while, now, as it has been hard to get access to solid information.  My initial post is here.  My post discussing St George and English nationalism is here.  The standard late-medieval English life – the Golden Legend – is here.  How the word “legend” changed from “Something that must be read” to “something probably not true” is discussed by Sherry L. Reames, The Legenda Aurea: A Reexamination of Its Paradoxical History, 1985, p.27 f.

As mentioned earlier, a Life of St George appears in the list of apocryphal works in the Decretum Gelasianum, (online here), a 5th century list of books approved and otherwise – as a composition likely to bring discredit on the church, and probably written by heretics!  No doubt the use of “Athanasius” for the name of the magician who opposes George in Egypt has something to do with this, as does the name of George of Cappadocia, the Arian bishop of Alexandria.

Finally, St George was still venerated quite late in England.  I came across a 1633 English account of St George which can be found online: Henry Seyle, The Historie of that Most Famous Saint and Souldier… St. George… the Institution of the Most Noble Order of S. George, Named the Garter, 1633.  Online here.

There are quite a few holes in all this, and most accounts of St  George contain errors.  The relationship of all the Latin stuff to the Greek texts is simply not defined.  Somebody needs to go through all this and draw up a spreadsheet of texts, recensions, and references.  The task requires more time and energy than anything else, and the output would certainly be publishable.  Anybody interested?

  1. [1]C. Walter, “The origins of the cult of St George”, in: REB 53 (1995), 295-326 (online here) : “The first pilgrim’s account, that of Theodosius, dates from about 530: “In Diospolim, ubi sanctus Georgius martyrizatus est, ibi et corpus eius est et multa miracula fiunt”115. His testimony could hardly be more explicit. It is supported by that of other pilgrims, Antoninus of Piacenza (about 570) and Adamnanus (about 670). The cult of Saint George’s relics certainly continued at Lydda.” “115. Pilgrims’ visits to Lydda: P. Geyer, Itinera hierosolymitana saeculi IV-VIII, Vienna 1898, p. 139 (Theodosius); p. 176-177, 182 (Antoninus); p. 288-294 (Adamnanus).”
  2. [2]Of the holy places visited by Antoninus martyr, Palestine Pilgrims Text Society, 1885. Online at Archive.org here.

Texts of the “Life” of St George

When I came to look at St George, my intention was to arrange for the translation of one or two versions of his Life.  What I had not anticipated was to find a mess, where there is still basic scholarly work to do in identifying and classifying versions of the Lives.  Originally I had hoped to list all the texts which contained versions of the martyrdom of St George; or at least the earliest ones.  But this quickly proved futile.  So here is what I was able to work out.

Literature

The relationships of the various Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic and Ethiopic texts are dealt with in great detail by John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the history of the legend of St George”, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 17,1902, 464-535.[1] Each version of the legend is summarised; and better still, the characteristics of each strand of the tradition are listed.  But Matzke’s splendid article hardly touches on the Greek texts at all.

For the Greek, our main source of texts is K. Krumbacher, Der heilige Georg in der griechischen Überlieferung, 1908, online at Archive.org here, and in high-resolution at the BSB here.  These I list below, indicating page number as K1, K3, etc.  Krumbacher also discussed his texts, and was well aware of many more texts, as his discussion section makes clear.

Some texts are also printed in the Acta Sanctorum, in April volume 3, under 23rd April, the Saint’s Feast Day, and Krumbacher discusses which these are in his list of “Hilfs” texts.  His conclusion section is well worth reading, but he avoids going into the Latin texts.

Huber also prints some Latin texts.[2]

None of the early versions have ever been translated into any modern language, apparently.

Here’s what I can usefully glean.

The Apocryphal Text (O)

The oldest version of the Life of St George is known as the apocryphal version, or O.  The author is given as a certain Passicras, or Passicrates.  This version has reached us as follows:

  • The Latin “Codex Gallicanus” (G).  Passio Auct. Pseudo-Passecrate. BHL 3363.  This is in the Bollandists own library in Brussels, under the shelfmark “23. bibl. 1 Bollandiana 23 Bruz 1 (1842)”[3], and belongs to the second half of the 9th century.  Walter suggests that this is the oldest version of the story,[4] supposedly by a certain Passecrates. – Text: W. Arndt, in: Berichte über die Verhandlungen der kön. Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, philol.-hist. Classe, XXVI (1874), 49-70.  Online here.  Excerpts in the Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 3, p.101, n. 4, 5.  I have asked a translator to have a look at this.
  • The Latin Codex Sangallensis (Sg), Saint-Gall 550, 9th century.  This seems to be derived from the same Greek exemplar as G. – Text: Zarnacke, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der königlich sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, 17, 1875, p.265-277. Online here (but several vols bound together starting with 13 so be careful!).[5]
  • The Greek Vienna Palimpsest, “Pal.” (Krum. p.1).  Cod. Vindobon. lat. 954.  5th century.  Discovered by Detlefsen.[6]  This is part of the Greek version from which G and Sg derive.

Four more Greek versions of the apocryphal legend are given by Krumbacher, who says that these provide the full Greek text of the apocryphal text.  Prior to Krumbacher these were unknown.  They relate closely to the Gallicanus text.

  • Athens version (K. p.3).  Cod. Athen. 422, paper, 1546 AD, f. 277v-291r.
  • Venice version (K. p.16).  Codex Marcianus gr. II 160 fol. 150r-172r.
  • Paris version (K. 18).  Codex Paris gr. 770, parchment AD1315, fol. 59r-72r.
  • Vienna mixed text (K.30).  Codex Vindobonensis theol. gr. 123, 13th century, fol. 37v-43v.

The Coptic versions are also based on the Apocryphal text.[7]  So are the Syriac versions; but they have been revised in the same way as the normal text (but independently), to remove discreditable material.[8]  The Arabic version is also based on the apocryphal text. There are also Ethiopic versions (a late translation from Arabic[9]), Armenian, Old Slavonic, and Sogdian[10] (translated from Syriac), Georgian, and Nubian versions (these close to the Athens form of the Greek)[11] and probably more.

The Normal Text

Most of the articles tell us that this was produced by removing the most outlandish versions of the earlier apocryphal text.

  • The normal text is printed by K. p.41, from two mss.,  Cod. Vatic. 1660[12] (AD 916), fol. 272r-288r (=V) + Cod. Paris 499 (11th c.), fol. 289v-300r. (=P).

Krumbacher also prints an interpolated form of the normal text.

  • The interpolated standard text (K.51).  Cod. Paris. gr. 1534 (11th c.) fol. 107v-124v.

Further Greek texts are given by Krumbacher, each a representative of a large collection of orations, encomiums, etc.  None of these are of any interest here, however.

  • Rhetorical reworking by Theodoros Daphnopates (K. 59)
  • Eulogy: The homily of Arcadius of Cyprus (K. 78)
  • Eulogy: The encomium of Theodoros Quaestor (K. 81)
  • 3 songs, two by Romanus the Melodist (K. 84)
  • The story of the illegitimate birth of St. George (K.103)

The edition of the legend by Symeon Metaphrastes (BHG 676) does exist in print, not by Krumbacher, curiously, but in the Acta Sanctorum, April III. 7-12, printed at the end of the volume.[13]  It is also reprinted in the PG 115, cols. 141-161.

How any of the Latin or other texts relate to the Normal text is unknown to me.

For further research

Krumbacher also lists a mass of Greek manuscripts containing the legend of St George.  The BHG gives a bunch more Greek texts. The BHL gives a mass of Latin texts.  How all these relate to the Greek, or each other, I do not know. Krumbacher chapter 3 discusses the genealogy of the Greek texts.

It may be the limits of my German, I have been unable to find any article that indicates the relationships between all this material in Greek and Latin.  What is needed is a list of them all, in spreadsheet format, with incipit, shelfmark, BHL/BHG/AASS reference, date, and relationship to each strand of the tradition, using the characteristics identified by Matzke.

Does anyone care to undertake such a task?

A final thought, sent in by a correspondent:

I have only just begun looking into hagiography and it seems to me that there are very few “academic” translations. Rather, as there are usually several recensions/version of an hagiography floating around, academics provide summaries.  This seems fair, because it would be a very expensive exercise to translate each recension for little added value. Those hagiographies which are still used for liturgical purposes would have long been translated into their appropriate liturgical language. This is just my own observation. Those who work in the field would be better placed to comment.

  1. [1]Online at JSTOR, JSTOR.
  2. [2]Huber, “Zur Georgslegende”, In: Festschrift zum XII. Allgemeinen Deutschen Neuphilologentage in München, Pfingsten 1906, 175-235. Online here.
  3. [3]Matzke, p.466.
  4. [4]Walter, p.111.
  5. [5]List of volumes here; don’t get confused by the similarly-named series.
  6. [6]D. Detlefsen, “Über einen griechischen Palimpsest der k. k. Hofbibliothek mit Bruchstücken einer Legende vom heiligen Georg”, Vienna, 1858. Online here.
  7. [7]So Matzke p.466, Krumbacher, p.xviii.  Printed in E. W. Budge, The Martyrdom and Miracles of Saint George of Cappadocia. The Coptic text edited with an English translation, London, 1885.
  8. [8]Printed with English translation in E.W.Brooks, “Acts of St George”, in: Le Museon 38 (1925).  Online in v poor quality here.
  9. [9]So Krumbacher, p.xviii.
  10. [10]Hansen, “Berliner sogdische Texte II”; Benveniste, “Fragments des Actes de Saint Georges en version sogdienne”, JA, 1943-5, 91-116. See E. Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran: Seleucid Parthian, p.1226.
  11. [11]Gerald M. Browne, The Old Nubian Martyrdom of St George, CSCO 575, 1998.  Preview here.
  12. [12]Not 166, as in Walters.
  13. [13]If you get the PDF from here, it’s on p.1062 of the PDF.  But this is the original edition; the Paris reprint would probably be more readable.

From my diary

A.J. Festugière, Sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges. Traduits et annotés, Paris: Picard, 1971, arrived by ILL a week ago.  Something made me guess that it might contain French translations of some of the miracle stories printed by Aufhauser in S. Georgii Miracula, Teubner, 1913; and so it does!  In fact it looks as if M. Festugière translated the whole set, or very nearly so.

The existence of a translation is a blessing, and I’ll will add it to my St George bibliography when I get the time to compile the St George blog post.  Since the individual texts are nothing – merely one incarnation of the folk-story, rather than a literary text – this is probably quite enough for anybody but specialists.

I saw today on Twitter a BMCR review of a volume of translations from the Menologion of Simeon Metaphrastes, describing them as “Christian novels”, which they are.  The review claimed that hagiographical texts are the most frequently translated Byzantine texts, which seems like an interesting claim.

I’ve not been able to blog much for some time.  For the last year I have been on contract away from home.  Fortunately there is only 5 days remaining, and then I am free.  I plan to holiday in July and August.  If God wills then I will find a new contract in September which is closer to home.  But whatever He wills is good.

I have collected quite a list of ideas for blog posts in the mean time and no doubt these will appear once I have recovered from the contract.  The main post that I want to write is an overview of St George and his literature. I will return to translating Eutychius too.

Looking at Aufhauser’s 1913 “edition” of miracle-stories of St George

A couple of years after his 1911 publication on the miracles of the Dragon and the Demon, Aufhauser went on to publish the text of 19 miracle stories or other pieces about St George, in the Teubner series in 1913.  (Online at Archive.org here).

The book contains text(s) taken from several manuscripts.  Unhappily these include the codex Athous Ioasaphaion 308, written on paper so late as 1878.  Yes, that is right – only 35 years before the Teubner, and written, much of it, in modern Greek.  The stories agree on content, but little else; so, mysteriously, Aufhauser edits two or three or more versions in parallel, in a hard to follow manner.

Here are the items in it (I’ve translated the Latin titles given by Aufhauser).  Aufhauser gave summaries of the first 13 items in his 1911 book, which I have already given here.  Items 14-19 he prints for the first time.

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The contents of items 14-19 are not given except in the text.

I understand that a number of these items exist in French translation, in A.J. Festugiere, Saint Thecle, saints Cosme et Damien, saints Cyr et Iean (extraits), Saint Georges (Paris 1971), 33-82.  That’s a lot of pages; maybe he translated the lot!  I shall place an ILL and see.

I find that various of these miracles are recounted online on orthodox pages.  I don’t know if they have much connection to the texts published by Aufhauser.

My purpose in investigating all this has been to discover if there are literary texts which should be translated into English.  But it seems more than doubtful that any of this deserves translation, at least by me.  A summary of the contents of each story would serve for most purposes; for none of these texts are canonical, or literary, or form any kind of collection.  They are just stories, legends, that circulate.  So why spend much time on translating one of the many forms in which a given story exists in the manuscripts?

The passio of St George is another matter, as there is clearly a literary history involved.  It is possible that the materials around St George and the dragon might usefully be put into English, because of the importance of that myth to the English-speaking world.

But all in all, it’s some distance from what I want to be doing.

From my diary

So much is online these days, that I hardly use my local library any more.  Also I have rather more money than I did thirty years ago, and the temptation is strong to simply order any book that I want, and have it appear at my house – or my hotel room – the next day.

It is, of course, terribly wasteful to do this.  But I admit to having succumbed twice in recent weeks, once for Christopher Walter’s The Warrior Saints – a fine book indeed, and absolutely critical for anyone interested in the St George literature – and also for the Ashgate Research Companion to Hagiography volume 2.  The latter was probably a very expensive mistake, for I have still not opened it.

Another text was not online, nor readily available for purchase.  So I sent an email to my local library asking them to get it for me.  I was mildly surprised to be told that my library card had expired.  After using the same card for over thirty years, this seemed very odd!  But they ordered it anyway, and it arrived today.  For $8 I can have the use of it for two weeks.  That’s not very long; except that, of course, I always intended to scan it and create a PDF which would always be with me.  As the item was published before WW1, and is therefore out of copyright in the USA, I also intended to put it online.

This morning I collected it, on a steaming hot grey morning.  It was good to see  that my PC copy of Abbyy Finereader Pro 12 and book scanner still worked.  The small size of the volume, and small text size, meant that I had to scan it at 600dpi, which of course meant very large bitmaps.  These were almost 20mb per page in .png colour format; half that, on average, in jpg.  And they had to be colour, because the spine was tightly bound and the shadow in the spine covered some of the text.  Peculiarly the yellowed paper scanned as a faint pink.

Anyway the scan is certainly good enough for my purposes, although I do wish somebody would find a way to produce monochrome scans of tightly bound books!

I’ve been thinking about the legends of St George.  A remark by Christopher Walter has resonated.  These are not literary texts, where the specific words of the story matter.  These are folkstories, where the story is all, but the precise words nothing.

It’s like the legends of King Arthur.  There actually is no original text for these.  Instead there are the legends, in ever-changing forms, and any two recitings may be cast in quite different words.  Such written forms as exist are derivative from this process.

The same is true of the legends of Robin Hood.  There are the medieval ballads, but nobody pretends that these are definitive.  The story will feature Robin, and Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham; and at the end the Sheriff will be foiled and the Merry Men will celebrate in the greenwood.  The rest is mere scaffolding, temporary and of no permanent importance.

The same must be true of the stories of St George.  Nobody ever cared about the precise words.  It is the story that matters.  Consequently almost every other copy is quite different.  It is qualitatively a mistake to try to trace a stemma in the way that we might for a literary text.

The legends of St George, like those of Robin Hood, have an oral element.  On the feast day of St George, it would be necessary to give an account of the saint.  Collections of brief accounts of saints exist, in the synaxaries, compiled for just this purpose.  But longer accounts would naturally be given, sermons might well incorporate other material, and so tellings of the legend would extend.

I’ve also been mulling over the question of whether St George is English.  This sounds like a strange question!  But today English nationalism is held in great suspicion by the British ruling class, who rightly see it as a threat to their internationalist policies, and attacks on English institutions are encouraged.  St George as a symbol of England, wearing the red cross, is therefore suspect.

On twitter I saw a jeer that St George was a Palestinian immigrant.  Much nationalism has been excited by the settlement of more than five million immigrants in the last decade, which gives the jeer its point.  Like most good jeers it is designed to be hard to respond to.  But we instinctively know that something is wrong.  And it gives us the chance to clarify what we mean by a nation’s patron saint.

St George was adopted as the patron saint of England by the crusader kings of England.  The invincible warrior on horseback was about all they took from earlier Greek legends.  But saints of that period belonged to all of Christendom.  Possibly this is still true even today, for Catholic saints.  St George was not a Palestinian, even if his shrine stood in Lydda.  The original St George, if he existed, was a Greek or a Roman.  Like the heritage of antiquity, like the Holy Roman Emperor, he belonged to all Christians everywhere.  Any nation was at liberty to adopt a saint, and customise him for their nation.  And that is what kings like Richard the Lionheart and Edward III did.  In a sense, they created St George of England, from a mixture of existing materials – this linked him to the cult of the saint – and their own contemporary need for a hero-saint.  St George is not an immigrant, but a home grown expression of what the English wanted.

Is this perhaps some sort of reply?  At this point we pass rather beyond my period, so I can’t say how accurate all this is.  But it is certainly more true than the gibe of St George the immigrant, which nobody ever heard of until these unhappy days.

I confess that many of the working class nationalists that one sees depicted on the television are wildly unattractive.  But if we must have such people, would it be such a bad thing for them all to revere St George?!

That said, it seems most unlikely that anybody will.  I am the last person to predict how things will be.

That said, I have nagging doubts about the direction of modern life…!

Do we really have a 4th century inscription from Sakkaia / Shaqqa dedicated to St George?

If you want to know about the origins of St George, it isn’t very long before you hear that a church inscription in Syria exists, dedicated to St George, and dating from the 4th century AD.  The details are often a bit vague; but the site is the town of Shaqqa or Shakka, ancient Sakkaia or Saccaea, sometimes called Maximianopolis, after the co-emperor of Diocletian.

Let’s have a look at this.

The inscription was published in 1870 as entry 2158, vol. 2, p.505-6, by Waddington in his Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie.[1]  He lists it as Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum 8609, although I find it quoted as CIG 8603.  Here’s Waddington’s drawing:

He says that the inscription was on a large stone, broken into two pieces, lying in front of the liwan of the sheikh.  The middle contained a cross in a circle which had been “hammered”.  He also says the text was better preserved when Burkhardt saw it.

Thanks to the genius of Pawel Nowakowski and the CSLA,  we can have a transcription and translation here, with an image of Burkhardt’s drawing:

+ οἶκος ἁγίων ἀθλοφόρων μαρτύρων Γεωργίου καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτῷ ἁγίων. ἐ[κ π]ρ[οσφ]ωρ(ᾶς) Τιβερίνου ἐπισκ(όπου), ἔκτισεν ἐκ θεμελίων τὼ ίε[ρ]ατῖον καὶ τὴν π[ρ]ο[σ]θή[κ]ην τοῦ ναοῦ, ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ιε΄, ἔτους σξγ΄, σπουδῇ δὲ Γεωργίου καί Σεργίου μεγάλου διακ(όνων)

+ The house of the holy prize-winning martyrs: George and his holy companions. From the offerings of bishop Tiberinos. (He?) built the sanctuary and the aisles (prostheke) of the church from the foundations. 15th indiction, year 263. By the efforts of the deacons Georgios and Sergios the Great.

I have highlighted the era in use, the ἔκτους τῆς πόλεως.

The question is what the year 263 might refer to, in years AD.  This is not simple.  Waddington suggested that it couldn’t be in the era of Bostra, which would make it 368 AD, as the indiction number was wrong.  But this was the only date Waddington attempted, and consequently it passed into literature.

Y.E. Meimaris, Chronological Systems in Roman-Byzantine Palestine, (1992) p.321, (online here), discusses several inscriptions from Shaqqa and attempts to work out the local era.  But in fact it was J. Koder and M. Restle who worked out that the era must start with the acclamation of Maximian Herculius as Caesar in 286.[2].

So year 263 of Maximianopolis would be 549 AD; quite a lot later than many books and websites suggest.

There is a wrinkle on this; that 549 is not the 15th indiction.  So we have to correct for this also; either the year is wrong, or the indiction is.  This gives a range of possible dates between 549 and 567.[3]

The actual inscription has not been seen since Waddington.  But it is the dedication of a church, and the remains of the building are known.  Pascale Clauss-Balty, “La kalybé de Hayat (Syrie du Sud)”, in: Syria: Archéologie, art et histoire, 85 (2008) (Online here) identifies it as one of a series of temple types called “kalybé”, some of them visited in the 19th century by Vogüé.  He adds (p.262):

In Byzantine times, the kalybé of Shaqqa was transformed into a martyrion dedicated to Saint George. Vogüé states that the altar had been placed under the dome, behind a wooden fence whose post-holes he could still see in the piers of the central bay. In front of the facade, there was also a kind of vestibule (pl. 11), the northern limit of which was to correspond to that of a levelled area still in place.

It is the lintel of the entrance to this vestibule which bore the inscription seen by Waddington in 1860 and which attributed to Bishop Tiberinus the construction of the small sanctuary, placing in the year 263 of the local era the completion of the works, i.e. in 549, 550 or 565. Butler merely reproduces the Vogüé plan and section and adds some minor information.

The sober profile of the mouldings, the resemblance with the kalybé of Umm az-Zeitun and the membership of the same program as the Kaisariyeh allow us to date the kalybé of Shaqqa of the 2nd half of the 3rd century.

This is good news, as we can have a look at the building.  Vogue is online, but the contents have been scanned poorly and the images are better in the Clauss-Balty article.[4]  Here’s the facade from the north and the floor-plan:

And here a modern image from the same article:

But it is easy enough to find more online.  Not sure who the author of the first one might be…?

Ross Burns is in fact an author on Syrian monuments, and this comes from his website, monuments of Syria.  Googling using the Arabic name for Shaqqa (found on Wikipedia as “شقا“) produced a few more:

It looks as if the lintel was removed, the central arch collapsed, and the modern house was built in the ruin at some subsequent date.  Is the Vogue drawing a reconstruction, I wonder?  He states (vol.1 p.42) that the covering of the central aisle has fallen.  But the poor quality scan of the images makes it impossible for me to say.

I do wonder where that inscription is.  It’s probably in a wall, somewhere in the town.  If only one could visit and just ask!

It is interesting to see this pagan temple, rededicated to St George in the 6th century.  But the date of dedication is not the earliest known, in fact.  This we will discuss in another post.

  1. [1]Online here.  You can find the relevant portions on p.87 and p.257 of the PDF.
  2. [2]J. Koder and M. Restle, “Die Ara von Sakkaia (Maximianoupolis) in Arabia”, Jahrbuch OB 42 (1992), 79-81.  I have been unable to obtain access to this, but Frank R. Trombley, Hellenic Religion and Christianization: C. 370-529, p.344, gives us the info.
  3. [3]See the CSLA discussion for details.
  4. [4]De Vogue, Syrie centrale. Architecture civile et religieuse du Ier au VIIe siècle, Paris (1865-77); vol 1 https://archive.org/details/syriecentralearc01vogu. vol 2 https://archive.org/details/syriecentralearc02vogu.

Help at last! A FREE database with all the references to the Saints and their cult before 700 AD!

For the last few weeks I have been trying to find out about St George.  Starting from nothing, I want to know when the first mentions of him are, what literary texts are available, etc.  It’s been amazingly hard work, poring over century-old German monographs, the Acta Sanctorum, trying to find more recent works, and so forth.  Hagiography is dreadful to work with; and where on earth do you start, trying to find out inscriptions and church dedications?  Who knows??

But this week I discovered a mighty, mighty aid to my quest:  The Cult of the Saints in Late Antiquity project. This is a massive database, which contains every reference in the historical record to a saint, up to around 700 AD.  The “about” page and the “search” pages are here:

So what’s in here?  An entry can be a list of all the data for a saint, such as Saint George.  With a bit of fiddling, you find that he is S00259, and you get a list of data points back, in chronological order:

Not everything is completed yet.  The greyed-out entries – which are still useful, note – are yet to be written.  But so much is done.  Each entry is a text, a translation into English, some discussion, maybe a photograph if they had one, and a very up-to-date bibliography.  Note that this is not just Greek and Latin; Armenian, Coptic, Syriac and Georgian sources are also included!

Since I have been searching for some time for information on one inscription, I am painfully aware of how much labour must have been undertaken to produce an entry far more up-to-date than anything that I had been able to obtain.  Frankly it’s gold.  You will save yourself so much effort.

I have yet to use it for its design purpose, tho, of picking up cross-references.  This, I imagine, is where the database design will really pay dividends for researchers.  I heartily approve.

The entries are becoming visible in Google, which is how I became aware of the project.  Make your obscure query for some Syrian church, and you may well get a line from this database appear.  I hope that the links are indeed permanent, for this is quite a resource.  Usefully each page indicates how it should be referenced for publication (although more should be done to this, I think).  I hope that the pages get archived at Archive.org as well; the last thing we need is for material to vanish offline in 5-10 years time.

If you have any interest in hagiography at all, you need to get familiar with this site.  It’s simply the best tool to hit the hardware department since the Acta Sanctorum.

The contributors are listed here; many of the names will be familiar, all doing very good work.  The project leader is Bryan Ward-Perkins.

I truly approve of this site.  It’s accessible to ordinary chaps like you and I, all around the world.  It’s something that would have been unthinkable before the internet.  Johannes Bollandus and Daniel Papebroch would have given their eye-teeth for it.

This site almost justifies the existence of Oxford University all by itself; for it gives access to the fruits of so much learning to so very many more people than could ever research it themselves.  Words fail me.  Use it.

The oldest dateable inscription mentioning St George

The first evidence in the archaeology of St George is from a little church in Syria, in a town called Izra, or Izraa, or Ezra, or Ezraa, or Zorava, with the usual Semitic indifference to vowels, and the usual consequent confusion.

Here is the relief, in a nice new modern photograph from here.  I spent a profitable hour thrashing Google before I located it.

Basilica of St. George (515 AD) – Ezra’ a, Syria

The text is as follows:

θεοῦ γέγονεν οἶκος τὸ τῶν δαιμόνων καταγώγιον·
φῶς σωτήριον ἔλαμψεν, ὅπου σκότος ἐκάλυπτεν·
ὅπου θυσίαι εἰδώλων, νῦν χοροὶ ἀγγέλων·
ὅπου θεὸς παρωργίζετο, νῦν θεὸς ἐξευμενίζεται.
ἀνήρ τις φιλόχριστος, ὁ πρωτεύων Ἰωάννης, Διομηδέως υἱός,
ἐξ ἰδίων δώρον θεῷ προσήνεγκεν ἀξιοθέατον κτίσμα
ἱδρύσας ἐν τούτῳ τοῦ καλλινίκου ἁγίου μάρτυρος Γεωργίου
τὸ τίμιον λίψανον τοῦ φανέντος αὐτῷ ἸωάννῃS
οὐ καθ’ ὕπνον, ἀλλὰ φανερῶς. ἐν ἔτι θ΄ ἔτους υ̣ι[.]΄

The abode of demons has become the house of God. The light of salvation shines where darkness caused concealment. Where sacrifices to idols occurred, now there are choirs of angels. Where God was provoked, now He is propitiated. A certain Christ-loving man, the town-councillor (proteuon) Ioannes, son of Diomedes, offered a beautiful building to God from his own offerings, after installing within it the worthy relic (leipsanon) of the martyr George, who appeared to this Ioannes not in a dream, but manifestly. In the 9th (indiction?) year. The year 410 (?).

The era is not AD, of course, which had yet to be invented, but the era of the Arabian province.  This gives a date of 515 AD.

This splendid transcription, and much else, I owe to Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity Database, E01754 – http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E01754.  This had a wretched photograph, from IGLS 15/1, 244, which shows what rubbish scholars have to endure:

After seeing it, I was determined to try to find a better image.  Searching for Izra St George brought up quite a few images of the church, such as this:

The Wikipedia article for Izra has another.  It also had a link to Google maps, showing a reddish sand desert in which the modern town stands.

It shows the importance of uploading high resolution images.  The author of the inscription photo above had no intention of photographing it.  But his image of the west door of the church was of sufficiently high resolution that I was able to excerpt that picture above.  Marvellous!

Suddenly a light shines – something at last on the Martyrdom of St George!

I’ve been trudging through Krumbacher and another heavy old German tome, running the text into English and looking for pointers to understand the mass of literature about the Passio or Martyrdom of St George.  While these give a great deal of detail, the beginner would often be grateful for a roadmap.

Today, quite by accident, I came across an article in two parts which illuminated a great deal.  A google search introduced me to two articles in the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, (list of volumes online here), in vol. 17 (1903) and vol. 18 (1904).  This is John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the History of the Legend of Saint George, with Special Reference to the Sources of the French, German and Anglo-Saxon Metrical Versions”.  Not all older US literature is worth reading; but these are gold.  They also publish various versions of the Passio.

But their real value is in allowing us to understand what happened to the legend.

The various editions of the Passio can be distinguished by variations in the story.  In particular the name of the emperor who is in charge at the start of the text varies; and varies over time.

The earliest form known to us is a mention in the Decretum Gelasianum, in which a passio of St George is condemned roundly as a disreputable heretic forgery.  It seems that we may have this version.  In the earliest texts, the emperor is called “Datianus” or “Dacianus”.  The trial takes place in Egypt, and the emperor summons a sorcerer named – what else? – Athanasius – to cast wicked spells against the miracles of St George.  Finally the passio is attributed to George of Cappadocia.

Now the real George of Cappadocia was a rather dubious Arian, who got himself appointed as fake-bishop of Alexandria while the real Athanasius was in exile, only to get lynched by the Alexandrian mob in the times of Julian the Apostate.  So any “martyrdom of George of Cappadocia” is likely to be Arian.  The name of Athanasius as a villain is likewise an Arian thing.  Finally we may consider that throughout the 5th century the church writers inveigh against Arianism as the worst of heresies; no doubt influenced by their fear of the Arian Goths then taking over the empire.

Matzke’s theory, then, is that this text is extant, in various forms, and the name of Dacian is the fingerprint for it.  This he calls the “apocryphal version”, and it was clearly popular.

He suggests that a “canonical version” was produced by some educated man who made the emperor into Diocletian – someone who actually existed! – and otherwise revised it.  This then underwent further editions and revisions.

But the apocryphal version still existed, albeit in various forms, especially in the west.  One edition changed the name from Dacian to Decius; in one version the name change only appears in the opening sections of the work, and reverts to Dacian later on.

All this I got from a quick read of part 1 this afternoon in the office while waiting for a long build to finish.  I suspect part 2 might deal with the vernacular, and be less interesting.

I can’t say if this is correct.  But if so, it makes for an interesting view of how the text evolved!  I need to read more.

I must say that I am surprised by the lack of references to modern scholarship on St George.  They must exist, surely?

Aufhauser’s discussion of some miracles of St George

Update (1st June 2018): Since I wrote this post, I have become aware that there is no collection of miracle-stories about St George transmitted in the medieval manuscripts.  There are scattered stories in many manuscripts, some as late as 1878!  Aufhauser simply discusses some that were contained in one or another of the manuscripts that he was using.  They do NOT form a collection in Greek.  I have slightly revised this post accordingly, and I will do another with full details.

The literary texts about St George the Megalomartyr preserved in the medieval manuscripts naturally include the story of his martyrdom and death.

But the same manuscripts often contain one or more miracle stories.  Those that came before his eyes were summarised by J.B. Aufhauser in 1911 in his Das Drachenwunder des heiligen George in der griechischen und lateinischen Überlieferung, (online here) in which he also edited two of the miracles: that of the dragon, and that of the demon.  The texts of these 13, plus a further 6 miracles, were edited by him in Teubner in 1913 under the title Miracula S. Georgii (see this post for more details).

Aufhauser found that there was no literary tradition for this material.  There was no collection, no original composition.  The stories were written in various ways, just like folk stories.  There was no “authentic” literary text to transmit.  The content, not the words, was what people wanted.

The manuscripts used date from the 11th-18th century.  Here is a summary of the content of miracles 1-13.

Note that in Coptic there does seem to be a collection, with as many as 80 miracles listed; but I have yet to investigate these.

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The oldest manuscript containing a collection of miracles known to Aufhauser was the 11th century Cod. Paris 1604, parchment., 293 folios long. The manuscript is a homiliary, but it also contains many hagiographical texts.  The martyrdom of St George (type B1) is on f. 141-70, followed by the first three miracle reports.

1.  Of the Widow’s Pillar: In Palestine, a king in the hometown of the saint, where also his relics rest, for honor sought to rebuild a church. Even a widow wanted to contribute a pillar; but her gift was spurned. Grieving she then petitioned the saint. There appeared to her an armed horseman and asked her for the reason of her complaint. She told him the offense she suffered. The knight wrotes down her wish that her pillar will be the second on the right side of the temple, on the pillar itself. This was wonderfully brought to the site and the chief engineer, filled with astonishment at the widow’s faith, fulfilled the command engraved on the column.

2. Of the pierced picture: The Saracens once plundered this hometown of the saint and desecrated his church. Even against the images of the saints, they turned their spears. A prisoner scolded them, and the more because St. George, to whom the church was consecrated, had been an invincible warrior. At the question of the unbelievers, he showed them his image. Then one threw his lance against the picture; but it bounced back and hit the sinner in the middle of the heart. He sank dead to the ground; the others saw the picture stretch out its hand. They fled in horror, proclaiming with fear the power inherent in the image.

3. Of the captive youth from Paphlagonia: On a campaign the Agarenes (= Saracens as descendants of Hagar) once captured many in Paphlagonia. Among these was a young man who served in the temple of St. George at Phatris. Brought before the army commanders, some were beheaded, others sentenced to slavery.Theyouth was destined for the service of the general because of his beauty. Because he did not want to be unfaithful to his faith, he was degraded to serve the cooks, to carry water, and to chop wood. In his distress he turned to St George. At one evening, when he went to his camp, he heard his name outside the court. He opened and faced a rider.  He leaned down to him as if to hug him. Instead, he took him up on his horse, rode off, and took him to a strange house. Then he disappeared. The youth sank into a deep sleep. Early in the morning, one of the house-folks found him in his Agarese clothing and shouted in horror. For his part, the youth recognized the man in his spiritual costume as a Christian and a monk. He saw himself again in the temple of St. George, from whom he had been kidnapped. Everyone praised God for the miraculous rescue of the prisoner.

In the epilogue, the author emphasizes that he has told few of the many miracles, so as not to arouse disbelief and weariness. It would be easier to count the sand on the sea or the stars of the sky than any wonders that the saint himself or through others had worked. With high praises he then turns to the saint for intercession, so that he, too, can obtain eternal life in Christ, to whom honour and adoration are eternal.

Another 11th century manuscript from 1023 AD (Cod. Mosquensis bibl. syn. 381 (Wlad.), parchment, 367 folios) is similar but somewhat expanded.  It has a long introduction, followed by the same three stories, in the same order although not verbally identical.  Then another miracle story is given, which is really a revised version of the third:

4. Of the captive George, son of the army commander Leo in Paphlagonia. In Paphlagonia, St. George receives special worship. With great confidence one made a pilgrimage to his church at the spot.   Also the army commander Leo Phocas and his wife Theophano carry a special devotion to the saint. When a boy was born to them, they baptized him in that church in the name of the saint. Later, they gave him to the local priest for instruction in theology.   The western pagan peoples invaded the country: Bulgarians, Hungarians, Scythians, Medes and Turks. Only through the protection of God did the city escape destruction. At the Emperor’s command, a revenge expedition was set up and Leo was to lead it. Because of his old age, he sent his son George, who was just entering the age of youth. Before that, he recommended him in that church to the protection of the saint. His parents prayed for him day and night. But the invasion of the barbarian lands failed, a punishment of godlessness. Those who were not slain or devoured by the sea or crushed by horses died in captivity of famine. George was appointed to serve the army commander because of his beauty.

The parents went home full of bitter complaints and unwilling grumbling against the saint, even in his church. Above all, his mother was heartbroken when she saw her son’s peers. George also assailed the saints for help in his captivity. There came the anniversary of the saint; all the more, they begged him for salvation. During the celebration of joy on the occasion of the feast, the talk was only of George, who only a year before was among the festivities; and everyone was full of deep pain.

The same day George was busy at the oven. His memories were at home at the feast. Then his comrades ordered him to bring a vessel, called a koukomion, full of hot food to his master. But the vessel carried him into the air and in a moment it set him down in the middle of the feast of his father’s house. At the sight of his Bulgarian clothing and the steaming koukomion everyone cried out; horrified, his parents crashed to the floor. When George got himself together, he told how, just as a prisoner in the Bulgarian country, he wanted to bring this koukomion to his master; but an (…) had brought him here in a moment through the skies over the sea. In vain was the savior sought. His parents were also recovering and everyone was full of joy and thanks for St George. But a further miracle! Everyone was satisfied by the food brought. Then they went to the church of the saint, to thank him and to ask forgiveness for the grumbling. The koukomion they gave in the temple as a sacrificial chalice. At that time George was still a youth. But now, when he grew old, he told this miracle that had once happened to him.

Note that in both of these 11th century manuscripts the Dragon miracle is not given, and was presumably unknown to the compilers.  Further stories appear in later manuscripts:

5). Of the runaway oxen of Theopistos. In the time of Emperor Theodosios, there lived in Cappadocia a man named Theopistos; his wife was called Eusebeia. They were childless. Seven years after their marriage, Theopistos once on 20 May hitched a pair of oxen on the yoke to plough. But he fell asleep and the oxen ran away. All searching was in vain. At the request of a neighbor he called St. George for help with a promise to sacrifice his oxen. At night the saint appeared to him and showed him the disappeared animals. To thank the farmer slaughtered a buck. But the saint was not satisfied with that and demanded redemption of the promise. Even the sacrifice of a sheep and a lamb could not satisfy him, since, as the saint declared in a new apparition, it would not correspond to his dignity as komes. He now demanded the oxen and all the sheep. Theopistos now sought to interpret the apparitions as a ghost in order to escape his obligation. Then the saint again showed himself to him, this time … and threatened him with destruction by fire if the promise were not fulfilled. Now Theopistos slaughtered all his animals. Then twice thirty riders sprang up and announced the approach of the komes. He himself appeared on a white horse. Well, he said, he knew that the sacrifice was to St George; but his name is George and he is also from Cappadocia. Now everyone was satisfied with the sacrificial dishes. Out of the bones, however, the komes again formed the oxen of Theopistos. The other goods of the farmer were also increased, in addition he was given seven sons and three girls. He gratefully built a church for the saint. After 22 years, he died and was buried in that church with his wife, who followed him to death after seven days.

6. The vision of the Saracen during the liturgy and his conversion. The army commander Nikolaos Julas said: The Emir of Syria sent his cousin to a city called by the Saracens Ampelon. There was a famous church of St. George. The Saracen ordered his luggage brought inside under shelter there, including the camels. The priests tried in vain to dissuade him. The camels also fell dead when entering the sanctuary. The hour of the liturgy approached. The Saracen stayed there and saw in the hands of the priest a child, who was later eaten by the priest and those present. In the distribution of the Eulogies he announced to the priest his indignation that one is tormenting a child.  He was astonished at the vision, taught the stranger in faith, and sent him to be baptized to the monks of Sinai. He became a monk (called Pachumios) and stayed there for three years. Then he returned to that priest to look again at the child. But he sent him to the Saracens to announce their faith. Before his cousin, the Emir, he confessed himself as a Christian and a monk. But his conversion attempts failed: instead he was  stoned by the Saracens.

This miraculous account is usually attributed to Gregory Dekapolites (died 817), sometimes to a monk Markos, of whom we know only the name.

7. The punishment of an atrocity of a Saracen to the image of the saint and the conversion of the wicked. Some saracens once came to a church of the saint where the liturgy had just ended. At the sight of the image of St. George one of them threw a lance inside and hurled it against the picture. But it bounced back and hit his own hand. At home he asked the Christians about the power of the picture. They directed him to the priest. He explained to him the worship of the church, told him the life story of George and promised him a healing of the hand, even though he adored the image. He was in fact healed. Then he read the story of the suffering of the saint and was baptized. For the proclamation of faith in the Saracens, he himself suffered martyrdom.

This also is a version of #2 above.

8. Of the murdered soldier. At the time of the war against the Turks, a general once took his army to Syria. From here he sent a soldier home with a lot of gold and silver. On the way he stayed overnight in a hermitage dedicated to St. George. The hermit let himself be seduced by the gold, murdered the sleeping soldier and dismembered him. In the meantime, the wife of the soldier saw at home in the dream the danger in which her husband was hovering. At daybreak she hurried to the church of the saint at his grave and pleaded for help. The saint rode to the hermit and asked for the remains of the soldier. No denial was accepted. George resuscitated the chopped-up masses of flesh and sent the soldier to the army with the money. At home the soldier recounted the misfortune suffered, the woman the dream, and both praised God and the miracle worker George.

9. Of the captive youth of Mytilene. On the island of Mytilene there was a church of the saint. Cretan corsairs once wanted to invade the island. They chose the anniversary of the saint on which all the people were in the church. Anyone who was hit at home was captured, even the son of a widow. He was young and very beautiful; therefore he became servant of the Emir of Crete. The widow, however, besieged the saint for help. When the young man once wanted to do his duty as cup-bearer at noon, George carried him home to his mother. And they praised God and his saints.

This is a simpler version of #3 and #4; also the scene is changed.

10. Of the pancake. In Paphlagonia was a church of the saint; it was destroyed. George wanted her rebuilding. Children once played in the square. One of them could never win. He was laughed at by the others. In his distress he turned to the saint and promised him a cake of eggs. Then the child was granted the victory, and he brought forth his still steaming gift. Three fishermen came to the temple to perform their devotions. They ate the food. As punishment, they fell to the ground and could only rise again when each of them had promised to sacrifice a guilder (florion).

11. Of Manuel, the man with the consecration gifts. A brief introduction first calls for the purification of all defilement in order to dignify the feasts of the saints. Then begins the narrative: In Paphlagonia, near the metropolis of Gangra, stands in a placed called Didia a highly revered church of St. George. A man of the village called Leo had a son Manuel. Both had great confidence in St. George. Every year the son also made a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Archangel Michael in Chonae. There he also brought consecration gifts of other pious people. Once he had gifts worth a pound of gold. One evening, exhausted from the pilgrimage, he could no longer reach the village where he used to spend the night. When the night came, he saw a spark of fire in a valley. He found a house, a robber’s den, in which a robber hid himself with his wife and son. Only the woman was at home, the other two were gone to steal. Manuel asked for a hostel. The woman investigated him. When she heard of the consecrations, she also pretended piety and said that they wanted to make the pilgrimage with him. Then she led him inside and invited him to rest. She closed the door and waited for her husband and son. These came downcast and reported on their futile raid. The woman laughed at her and told her about her effortless catch. Manuel heard everything in his room. Full of pain, he pleaded with St. George for help. He was led out and had to tell everything. After the meal, they set off. The two robbers led him on impassable paths, and tried to drown him in a river. In the greatest distress he called again on St. George. There was a lightning flash, and the two fiends plunged into the river. He led Manuel on his horse to the church of the Archangel and ordered him to return home and proclaim God’s goodness. At the same hour the saint appeared before the robber’s den. When asked about the whereabouts of the stranger, the woman replied that he had gone to Chonae with her husband and son after the meal. Then fire fell from the sky and left everything in ruins. The man sacrificed his gifts in Chonae and returned to his native land, where he spent the rest of his life in humility and penance.

Related to #8.

12. The Dragon Miracle.

13.  The miracle of the unmasked demon.

#13 often appears with #12.  No summary of either is given by Aufhauser, but texts of both are printed in various versions.

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What are we to make of these items?  Obviously all of them are folk-story.  None is history or biography.

While reading them, I was reminded of a comment by a friend in my college days, about a big Christian bible-week.  “I hear they had angels at the Dales again this year.”  I have no opinion on whether angels really did appear at the bible-week in 1981.  The point is that a climate existed in which my friend could repeat what was plainly a story going around, without obvious embarrassment.  Indeed it was a “nice story” to him, a sign of God at work in the lives of his people.

Looked at in this life, the stories given above are of the same type.  Some problem in life is met with prayer to Saint George.  The saint responds, and the grateful recipient tells others how his prayer was answered.

Over time the story gets embroidered.  This happens whenever a story is passed from mouth to mouth, even today; and in ages when exact accuracy was not really valued, it must have happened more.  In fact we can see an example of this happening above, in the two stories where a Saracen throws his spear at an icon of St George.

In one version it bounces off the hard wall and hurts his hand.  In a revised version it bounces off and hits him straight through the heart; and bystanders see the hand of the saint move.  Oral transmission is quite enough to account for the embroidery.  The point is a people looking to see God and his Saints at work in the incidents of everyday, just as a modern Christian would.

The story of St George and the dragon is a different matter, however.  Somebody actually created this story.  But it is an exception in the St George literature.