St. George was born in Cappadocia, in modern day Turkey, in the third century AD. He appears to have been a member of an aristocratic Greek family. George's parents were Christians, and his father was a friend of the Emperor Diocletian. After his father’s death, George presented himself to Diocletian, who welcomed the young man. George joined the Roman army and served in Palestine. He eventually became a tribune, a very high rank in the Imperial Army.
The Emperor fell under the influence of his co-emperor Galerius, who urged Diocletian to begin a great persecution of Christians. The Diocletian Persecution, as it came to be known, was the fiercest campaign against the followers of Jesus in the history of the Roman Empire. Many Christians were martyred and whole villages of believers were massacred and enslaved.
George, as an officer, was expected to renounce his faith and participate in the persecution of his fellow Christians. He refused, despite Diocletian offering him bribes. George was ordered to be executed. He suffered terrible tortures and apparently died three times, but each time he miraculously came back to life. Such was his courage and his faith that several pagan priests who witnessed him became devout Christians. George was eventually beheaded in Nicomedia, in 303 AD.
There are many legends about George. He is the model of a Christian soldier. George is best known for his slaying of the dragon. A terrible dragon was terrorizing a community, and the people appealed to George for help. St. George vowed to defend the citizens. He went out alone to the den of the dragon and slew it. The legend of George slaying the dragon has been interpreted as demonstrating that people can defy evil in any form, including Satan.
There are many miracles attributed to George. He is recognized as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. This is a group of saints whose intercession is believed to be especially effective. Those who have prayed to St George have often been helped by this saint. Many Christian knights believed that St. George helped them on the battlefield during the Crusades.
St. George has been venerated through the centuries as a 'champion of Christ'. His life inspired many soldiers to follow the teachings of Christ. George showed soldiers that a Christian life and a soldier’s duties were not incompatible.
St. George is the patron saint of England, but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Portugal, Germany and Greece, Moscow, Istanbul and Genoa.