St George wasn't English. He may never have even existed, but if he did he was probably born in what is now modern-day Turkey, to a Turkish father serving in the Roman army and a Palestinian mother. He almost certainly didn't slay a dragon.

This may be why St George's Day is not a national holiday, and why one in five people don't know that the feast of St George is April 23. But that doesn't mean he's not fascinating. Here are some things you might not know.

1. St George is said to have been born in 270 AD in Lydda, Roman Palestine. His father was an official in the Roman army and his mother a local Greek Christian of Palestine. He moved to Palestine and became a Roman soldier, but is said to have resigned his post to protest against Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians.

Bournemouth Echo:

In 302 Diocletian decreed that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and all other soldiers should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods. George objected, was imprisonment and tortured, but he stayed true to his faith. The Feast of Saint George is still celebrated by Palestinians in the Monastery of St George near Bethlehem. He is known as "al-Khidr". 

2. This story is not the reason he is patron saint of England.  Richard the Lionheart adopted St George as his protector after visiting his shrine while on the Crusades - his troops said a vision of the saint inspired them to victory.

3. The legend of St George and the Dragon is said to have been brought back to England by the Crusaders. 

Eastern Orthodox images of Saint George slaying a dragon often include a young maiden looking on. The usual interpretation is that the dragon represents Satan and the young maiden is Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian.

Bournemouth Echo:

Not the sort of dragon that St George slayed.

The English version of the legend - which included an actual dragon, probably thanks to a mistranslation - became popular as part of the Golden Legend, by Jacobus de Voragine, a collections of stories of saints and one of the first books printed in the English language. (If you want to read the story of St George as printed in that book, you can find it here.)

4. Before St George, England’s patron saint was Edmund the Martyr.

Edmund was a king of East Anglia defeated in battle by the Danes, tied to a tree and beheaded because he refused to share power with his non-Christian captors. 

Bournemouth Echo:

Edward III - who created the Order of the Garter and pronounced St George its patron in 1348 - is said to have believed St George was a better patron saint for England as he was an undefeated champion. 

In 1415 the feast of Saint George was promoted to principal status after Henry V's speech at the Battle of Agincourt invoking Saint George as England's patron saint.

5. Other things St George is patron saint of England, of: Georgia, Germany, Portugal, Palestine and lepers, also syphilis and herpes, shepherds, knights, butchers, scouts, archers, equestrians and farmers. 

6. In Catalonia (where St George is also a patron saint) April 23 is celebrated like Valentine’s Day, with lovers and friends giving each other gifts.

7. Other people who died on the Feast of St George: Ethelred the Unready (968-1016) and Ethelred, King of Wessex (837-871) died on April 23, as did William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Rupert Brooke (1887-1915).

8. Pope Paul VI demoted St George to ‘optional worship’ in 1969. John Paul II reinstated him to full membership of the calendar of saints in 2000.

9. A church in Fordington, near Dorchester features a stone carving of St George appearing to the Crusaders. It is the earliest known church in England to be dedicated to Saint George.

Are you doing something special to celebrate St George's Day today? Let us know what you're up to by emailing