As some of you may know, and some of you may not, Saint George of Lydda is the patron saint of the Scout Movement
worldwide, and is especially relevant in Rovering in South Africa. The story of St. George, although largely based on myth, is a tale of heroism, gallantry, chivalry and courage. All aspects which Scouting and Rovering are associated. I’ll try my best to give you the full story here, as told by the Crusaders.
According to The Golden Legend, St. George was born in Lydda, Palestine between 275 and 285AD. His father was a Roman officer and his mother was a Palestinian noblewoman. Georges parents both died when he was in his teens and he decided to go to the Roman Imperial City of Nicomedia to join the army.
By the age of 20, the Roman emperor Diocletian had promoted George to the officer rank of Tribune. This was partly due to Georges military skill, and also in part because the emperor had been fond of Georges father before his death.
George supposedly had a long and respected military career, although few details are known. His most famous legend is the tale of George And The Dragon. During a Roman military campaign in Salone, Libya, George traveled through the town of Silene. This was a large town surrounding a lake and it was the capital of the Salone region.In the lake resided a large, venomous, plague-bearing dragon, which poisoned the land and people in the town and surrounding area. The local people has tried to
ease the dragon with sacrifices of sheep, and when that didn’t work they chose children at random to sacrifice. When George arrived there, they were about to sacrifice the kings daughter and although she herself tried to stop him, he rode out to the lake to fight the dragon. It was there, in a fierce battle, that he slayed the dragon with the legendary sword Ascalon (where the tradition of the Rover Sword comes in), saving the kings daughter and the town of Silene.
In the year 302AD, the Roman Empire was torn in a religious conflict between its Pagan and Christian citizens. The Emperor, who sided with the far more numerous Pagans, ordered the arrest of every Christan citizen. He wished to spare George, who was one of his favorite Tribunes, and gave George an opportunity to convert to Paganism. George, however, would not renounce his Christian faith and went as far as to openly oppose the Emperors new laws, stating that all men were equal regardless of faith. These actions resulted in his torture and eventual execution in Nicomedia.
Since those times, George’s figure has risen to Sainthood and he is now the patron saint of many countries, cities and organizations including: The Scout Movement, England, Russia. Ethiopia, Beirut and Aragon. There are many legends about St. George and if you’re interested in this aspect of Scouting Heritage I strongly suggest you have a look-see!