The Virgin and Child with an Angel, St. George and a Donor. c. 1470-80.
Oil on wood. National Gallery, London, UK.
By Hans Memling (b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)
St. George, born in Cappadocia to a Christian family, entered the Roman army. Once he was traveling through a city terrorized by a dragon, which had devoured all the cattle and now was eating people. George arrived at the moment when the dragon was about to swallow the king’s daughter, princess Sabra. With the help of Christ George overcame the dragon and, according to one version, killed him, according to another, tamed and put on leash. Later George fell the victim of Diocletian’s persecutions and was martyred: after surviving being burnt, boiled and crushed under a wheel, he was beheaded. His cult was born in the east and remains particularly strong in Greece and Russia. Thanks to crusaders his cult spread in the west, where St. George became one of the patron saints of Genoa, Venice and Barcelona, as well as that of England and of Teutonic Order. St. George was also the patron of all Christian knights.