Saint George (275/281 – 23 April 303) was a Roman soldier and priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. He is immortalised in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial and feast day is celebrated on April 23rd.
It is likely that Saint George was born to a Christian noble family in Lydda, Palestine during the late third century between about 275 AD and 285 AD, and he died in Nicomedia. His father, Gerontius, was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and his mother was from Palestine. They were both Christians and from noble families of Anici, so by this the child was raised with Christian beliefs. They decided to call him Georgius (Latin) or Geōrgios (Greek), meaning "worker of the land". At the age of fourteen, George lost his father; a few years later, George's mother, Polychronia, died. Eastern accounts give the names of his parents as Anastasius and Theobaste.
Then George decided to go to Nicomedia, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier. Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father, Gerontius — one of his finest soldiers. By his late twenties, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.
In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.
Recognising the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's city wall, on April 23rd, AD 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.
A church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction," according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George.
St George is most commonly depicted in early icons, mosaics and frescos wearing armour contemporary with the depiction, executed in gilding and silver colour, intended to identify him as a Roman soldier. After the Fall of Constantinople and the association of St George with the crusades, he is more often portrayed mounted upon a white horse.
At the same time St George began to be associated with St. Demetrius, another early soldier saint. When the two saints are portrayed together mounted upon horses, they may be likened to earthly manifestations of the archangels Michael and Gabriel. St George is always depicted in Eastern traditions upon a white horse and St. Demetrius on a red horse. St George can also be identified in the act of spearing a dragon, unlike St Demetrius, who is sometimes shown spearing a human figure, understood to represent Maximian.
A 2003 Vatican stamp issued on the anniversary of the saint's death depicts an armoured St George atop a white horse, slaying the dragon..