Was Saint George a Coventrian?

Today is St. George’s Day, a day many around the nation will be celebrating. But what exactly is it all about, and why are we celebrating?

Saint George’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint George, is the feast day of Saint George as celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint.

Saint George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of the saint’s death in Diocletianic Persecution of AD 303. For those Eastern Orthodox Churches which use the Julian calendar, this date currently falls on 6 May of the Gregorian calendar. In the 19th Century, it was 5 May.

You’ve heard the rumour, Saint George was a Coventrian… but is it true? Richard Johnson, 16th century author of the Famous Historie of the Seven Champions of Christendom, was the first person to place St. George in Coventry. Johnson said George was born the son of Lord Albert in a local castle with a “blood red cross on his arm and a dragon on his chest”.

The castle he was referring to was Caludon Castle. It stood in what is today called Caludon Castle Park, in the Wyken area of the city.

It’s believed a large house had been built there sometime before the Norman conquest of 1066. In 1305, the second Baron of Seagrave was granted permission by King Edward I to restyle the property as a castle with traditional turrets and a moat.

Johnson’s selection of the city may also be linked to Edward III’s decision to change the Patron Saint of England from St Edward to St George around 1349. At the time, Coventry was the fourth largest city in England and Edward III’s mother, Queen Isabella lived here and his eldest son, the Black Prince was to inherit Coventry’s Royal Palace, Cheylesmore Manor, the remains of which now serve as the city’s register office.

The romantic Caludon Castle, now in ruins, was chosen by Johnson as St George’s family residence.

One local account says it was Edward III, a former owner of Cheylesmore Manor – now the home of Coventry’s Register Office – who gave St George a Coventry birthplace and family background back in the 14th century.

But what is the truth?

St George might be hailed as a national hero, but he was actually born more than 2,000 miles away. He is thought to have been born in Cappodocia (modern day Turkey) and to have died in Lydda in the Roman province of Palestine in AD 303. It is believed that his tomb was in Lod and was a centre of Christian pilgrimage.

Like many saints, St George was described as a martyr after he died for his Christian faith. It is believed that during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian, St George was executed for refusing to make a sacrifice in honour of the pagan gods.

In fact, he never even visited England, his reputation for virtue and holiness spread across Europe from about the 7th century. During the Third Crusade in the 12th century, Richard I placed himself and his army under the protection of St George. He also adopted the emblem of St George, a red cross on a white background, which was worn as a uniform and later used on the English flag.

Any plans for day?! Between 11am – 3pm Broadgate will play host to the St George’s Day festivities, as a programme of events will be taking place, featuring music, dance and animatronics. 

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