Wednesday, April 22, 2009

St. George the Great-martyr, the Trophy-bearer

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Fresco of St. George the Great Martyr (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

St. George the Great Martyr, the Trophy-bearer - Commemorated on April 23rd (or on Bright Monday if his feast falls during Great Lent)

(The text below is taken and rearranged from:, and the text in brackets from:

The Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father was martyred for Christ when George was still a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, moved there with her son and raised him in strict piety. When he became a man, St George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander.

Icon of St. George, and his parents, Sts. Gerontius and Polychronia (taken from:
Of the many miracles worked by the holy Great Martyr George, the most famous are depicted in iconography. In the saint's native city of Beirut were many idol-worshippers. Outside the city, near Mount Lebanon, was a large lake, inhabited by an enormous dragon-like serpent. Coming out of the lake, it devoured people, and there was nothing anyone could do, since the breath from its nostrils poisoned the very air. On the advice of the demons inhabiting the idols, the local ruler came to a decision. Each day the people would draw lots to feed their own children to the serpent, and he promised to sacrifice his only daughter when his turn came. That time did come, and the ruler dressed her in her finest attire, then sent her off to the lake. The girl wept bitterly, awaiting her death. Unexpectedly for her, St George rode up on his horse with spear in hand. The girl implored him not to leave her, lest she perish. The saint signed himself with the Sign of the Cross. He rushed at the serpent saying, "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." St George pierced the throat of the serpent with his spear and trampled it with his horse. Then he told the girl to bind the serpent with her sash, and lead it into the city like a dog on a leash. The people fled in terror, but the saint halted them with the words: "Don't be afraid, but trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in Him, since it is He Who sent me to save you." Then the saint killed the serpent with a sword, and the people burned it outside the city. Twenty-five thousand men, not counting women and children, were then baptized. Later, a church was built and dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos and the Great Martyr George.
St. George with scenes from his life, Kremikovtsi Monastery, Bulgaria (taken from:
The pagan emperor, who did much for the restoration of Roman might, was clearly concerned with the danger presented to pagan civilization by the triumph of the Crucified Savior, and intensified his persecution against the Christians in the final years of his reign. Following the advice of the Senate at Nicomedia, Diocletian gave all his governors full freedom in their court proceedings against Christians, and he promised them his full support. St George, when he heard the decision of the emperor, distributed all his wealth to the poor, freed his servants, and then appeared in the Senate. The brave soldier of Christ spoke out openly against the emperor's designs. He confessed himself a Christian, and appealed to all to acknowledge Christ:

"I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting in Him, I have come among you voluntarily, to bear witness concerning the Truth."

"What is Truth?" one of the dignitaries asked, echoing the question of Pontius Pilate.

The saint replied, "Christ Himself, Whom you persecuted, is Truth."

Stunned by the bold speech of the valiant warrior, the emperor, who had loved and promoted George, attempted to persuade him not to throw away his youth and glory and honors, but rather to offer sacrifice to the gods as was the Roman custom.
St. George being taken to prison, from Decani Monastery (taken from:

The confessor replied, "Nothing in this inconstant life can weaken my resolve to serve God." Then by order of the enraged emperor the armed guards began to push St George out of the assembly hall with their spears, and they then led him off to prison. But the deadly steel became soft and it bent, just as the spears touched the saint's body, and it caused him no harm. In prison they put the martyr's feet in stocks and placed a heavy stone on his chest. The next day at the interrogation, powerless but firm of spirit, St George again answered the emperor, "You will grow tired of tormenting me sooner than I will tire of being tormented by you." Then Diocletian gave orders to subject St George to some very intense tortures. They tied the Great Martyr to a wheel, beneath which were boards pierced with sharp pieces of iron. As the wheel turned, the sharp edges slashed the saint's naked body. At first the sufferer loudly cried out to the Lord, but soon he quieted down, and did not utter even a single groan.

St. George being tortured on the wheel, from Decani Monastery (taken from:
Diocletian decided that the tortured one was already dead, and he gave orders to remove the battered body from the wheel, and then went to a pagan temple to offer thanks. At this very moment it got dark, thunder boomed, and a voice was heard: "Fear not, George, for I am with you." Then a wondrous light shone, and at the wheel an angel of the Lord appeared in the form of a radiant youth. He placed his hand upon the martyr, saying to him, "Rejoice!" St George stood up healed. When the soldiers led him to the pagan temple where the emperor was, the emperor could not believe his own eyes and he thought that he saw before him some other man or even a ghost. In confusion and in terror the pagans looked St George over carefully, and they became convinced that a miracle had occurred. Many then came to believe in the Life-Creating God of the Christians. Two illustrious officials, Sts Anatolius and Protoleon, who were secretly Christians, openly confessed Christ. Immediately, without a trial, they were beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor.
St. Anatolius the Commander, martyred along with St. George (April 23rd) (taken from:
Also present in the pagan temple was Empress Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian, and she also knew the truth. She was on the point of glorifying Christ, but one of the servants of the emperor took her and led her off to the palace. The emperor became even more furious. He had not lost all hope of influencing St George, so he gave him over to new and fiercesome torments. After throwing him into a deep pit, they covered it over with lime. Three days later they dug him out, but found him cheerful and unharmed.

St. George put into the pit of lime, and drinking the sorceror's poison (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
They shod the saint in iron sandals with red-hot nails, [“Run, George, towards the object of our desire!” said the Saint, invoking the Lord’s help. And once again he presented himself, whole and radiant with grace, before the tyrant.] and then drove him back to the prison with whips. In the morning, when they led him back to the interrogation, cheerful and with healed feet, the emperor asked if he liked his shoes. The saint said that the sandals had been just his size. Then they beat him with ox thongs until pieces of his flesh came off and his blood soaked the ground, but the brave sufferer, strengthened by the power of God, remained unyielding.

The Flagellation of St. George, from Decani Monastery (taken from:
The emperor concluded that the saint was being helped by magic, so he summoned the sorcerer Athanasius to deprive the saint of his miraculous powers, or else poison him. The sorcerer gave St George two goblets containing drugs. One of them would have quieted him, and the other would kill him. The drugs had no effect, and the saint continued to denounce the pagan superstitions and glorify God as before. When the emperor asked what sort of power was helping him, St George said, "Do not imagine that it is any human learning which keeps me from being harmed by these torments. I am saved only by calling upon Christ and His Power. Whoever believes in Him has no regard for tortures and is able to do the things that Christ did" (John 14:12). Diocletian asked what sort of things Christ had done. The Martyr replied, "He gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the lame, gave hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, and raised the dead." Knowing that they had never been able to resurrect the dead through sorcery, nor by any of the gods known to him, and wanting to test the saint, the emperor commanded him to raise up a dead person before his eyes. The saint retorted, "You wish to tempt me, but my God will work this sign for the salvation of the people who shall see the power of Christ." When they led St George down to the graveyard, he cried out, "O Lord! Show to those here present, that You are the only God in all the world. Let them know You as the Almighty Lord." Then the earth quaked, a grave opened, the dead one emerged from it alive.

St. George raising the dead man (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
Having seen with their own eyes the Power of Christ, the people wept and glorified the true God. The sorcerer Athanasius, falling down at the feet of St George, confessed Christ as the All-Powerful God and asked forgiveness for his sins, committed in ignorance. The obdurate emperor in his impiety thought otherwise. In a rage he commanded both Athanasius and the man raised from the dead to be beheaded, and he had St George again locked up in prison. The people, weighed down with their infirmities, began to visit the prison and they there received healing and help from the saint. A certain farmer named Glycerius, whose ox had collapsed, also visited him. The saint consoled him and assured him that God would restore his ox to life. When he saw the ox alive, the farmer began to glorify the God of the Christians throughout all the city. By order of the emperor, St Glycerius was arrested and beheaded. The exploits and the miracles of the Great Martyr George had increased the number of the Christians, therefore Diocletian made a final attempt to compel the saint to offer sacrifice to the idols. They set up a court at the pagan temple of Apollo. On the final night the holy martyr prayed fervently, and as he slept, he saw the Lord, Who raised him up with His hand, and embraced him. The Savior placed a crown on St George's head and said, "Fear not, but have courage, and you will soon come to Me and receive what has been prepared for you." In the morning, the emperor offered to make St George his co-administrator, second only to himself. The holy martyr with a feigned willingness answered, "Caesar, you should have shown me this mercy from the very beginning, instead of torturing me. Let us go now to the temple and see the gods you worship." Diocletian believed that the martyr was accepting his offer, and he followed him to the pagan temple with his retinue and all the people. Everyone was certain that St George would offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint went up to the idol, made the Sign of the Cross and addressed it as if it were alive: "Are you the one who wants to receive from me sacrifice befitting God?" The demon inhabiting the idol cried out, "I am not a god and none of those like me is a god, either. The only God is He Whom you preach. We are fallen angels, and we deceive people because we are jealous." St George cried out, "How dare you remain here, when I, the servant of the true God, have entered?" Then noises and wailing were heard from the idols, and they fell to the ground and were shattered.
St. George destroying the idol through his prayers, and saving the princess from the dragon, from Decani Monastery (taken from:
There was general confusion. In a frenzy, pagan priests and many of the crowd seized the holy martyr, tied him up, and began to beat him. They also called for his immediate execution. The holy empress Alexandra tried to reach him. Pushing her way through the crowd, she cried out, "O God of George, help me, for You Alone are All-Powerful." At the feet of the Great Martyr the holy empress confessed Christ, Who had humiliated the idols and those who worshipped them.

St. Alexandra the Empress, the wife of Diocletian who was converted through St. George's martyrdom (April 21st) (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
Diocletian immediately pronounced the death sentence on the Great Martyr George and the holy Empress Alexandra, who followed St George to execution without resisting. Along the way she felt faint and slumped against a wall. There she surrendered her soul to God. St George gave thanks to God and prayed that he would also end his life in a worthy manner. At the place of execution the saint prayed that the Lord would forgive the torturers who acted in ignorance, and that He would lead them to the knowledge of Truth. Calmly and bravely, the holy Great Martyr George bent his neck beneath the sword, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.

St. George raising the dead man, and being beheaded, icons by Alevizakis (source)

St. George being sentenced by Diocletian and being beheaded, from Decani Monastery (taken from:
[Carrying out the Saint’s desire, his servant took his precious relics back to his country, to Lydda (Diospolis) in Palestine, where innumerable miracles were worked in the great church that was built in his honor.]
The burial of St. George (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
The pagan era was coming to an end, and Christianity was about to triumph. Within ten years, St Constantine (May 21) would issue the Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom to Christians.

The tomb of St. George the Great-Martyr, as it exists today in Lydda, Palestine (taken from:
[The veneration of Saint George enjoyed enormous popularity throughout the Christian world, both East and West. He was chosen to be the protector of countries like Georgia and England; thousands of churches have been dedicated to him and every Christian soul sees in him the incarnation of the virtues of valor, patience in affliction and trust in the help of grace that Christ, the Leader in battle, has enjoined on all the soldiers enrolled in His army of devotion.]

St George went on to become a talented officer and to amaze the world by his military exploits. He died before he was thirty years old. He is known as Victory Bearer, not only for his military achievements, but for successfully enduring martyrdom. As we know, the martyrs are commemorated in the dismissal at the end of Church services as "the holy, right victorious martyr...."

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer, with scenes from his life and martyrdom - 13th century icon from St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai (
St George was the patron saint and protector of several of the great builders of the Russian state. St Vladimir's son, Yaroslav the Wise (in holy Baptism George), advanced the veneration of the saint in the Russian Church. He built the city of Yuriev [i.e., "of Yurii." "Yurii" is the diminutive of "George", as "Ivan" is of "John"], he also founded the Yuriev monastery at Novgorod, and he built a church of St George the Victory Bearer at Kiev. The day of the consecration of St George's Church in Kiev, November 26, 1051 by St Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, has entered into the liturgical treasury of the Church as a special church feastday. Yuriev Day is beloved by the Russian people as an "autumn Feast of St George." The name of St George was also borne by the founder of Moscow, Yurii Dolgoruky (+ 1157), who was the builder of many churches dedicated to St George, and the builder of the city of Yuriev-Polsk. In the year 1238 the heroic fight of the Russian nation against the Mongol Horde was led by the Great Prince Yurii (George) Vsevolodovich of Vladimir (February 4), who fell at the Battle at the Sita River. His memory, like that of Igor the Brave, and defender of his land, was celebrated in Russian spiritual poems and ballads. The first Great Prince of Moscow, when Moscow had become the center of the Russian Land, was Yurii Danilovich (+ 1325), the son of St Daniel of Moscow, and grandson of St Alexander Nevsky. From that time St George the Victory Bearer, depicted as a horseman slaying the serpent, appeared on Moscow's coat of arms, and became an emblem of the Russian state. This has strengthened Russia's connections with Christian nations, and especially with Iberia (Georgia, the Land of St George)."

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (
Many of those associated with or converted by St. George's love for Christ and steadfastness in martyrdom are also celebrated as Saints. His father, St. Gerontius, was a Christian martyr whose feast is on November 4th (see the icon above). The fellow soldiers converted and baptized by St. George include the martyrs Sts. Protoleon, Victor, Akindynos, Zotikos, Zenon, Christopher, Severian, Theonas, Kaisarios and Anthony, and are celebrated on April 20th. St. Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian who was converted by St. George, along with her servants Sts. Apollo, Isaakios and Kodratos are celebrated as martyrs on April 21st. St. Polychronia, the mother of St. George, the martyrs Sts. Anatolius the Commander, Protoleon and Athanasius the former Sorcerer who were converted by St. George, and St. Glykerius whose ox was healed are commemorated along with St. George on April 23rd. Finally, the fellow prisoners of St. George and martyrs Sts. Eusebius, Neon, Leon, Longinus and another four others with them are honored on April 24th. How truthfully St. Seraphim put it, when he said: "Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you shall be saved"! Thus it is clear why the Synaxarion of St. George says that he played such an important role in the life of the Church of Constantinople that his feast extended from April 20th to April 24th (απριλιου), most likely also to honor all those martyred with him for Christ.

12th Century mosaic icon of St. George the Great Martyr, from Xenophontos Monastery (
It continues that since the 4th century there are churches dedicated to St. George in Syria, and in Egypt there were 40 churches and 3 monasteries in his honor, along with countless others in Greece, and in all Orthodox countries throughout the whole world. May St. George the Great-martyr, the Trophy-bearer, the Victorious, the Wonderworker intercede for all of us and help us!

For more information on St. George and the Monasteries of Zographou and Xenophontos on Mount Athos, see:

For the role of St. George in the life of St. Theodore Sykeote, see:

For some of the many Epithets which the faithful have given to the Saint, see:

For a story of St. George's help (among other Saints) in healing a small boy, see:

For various miracles of St. George the Great Martyr for Muslims, see:
For the Akathist to St. George the Trophy-bearer in English see here:
Apolytikion of St. George the Great-martyr in the Fourth Tone
Liberator of captives, defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Cultivated by God, you became manifest as an honorable tiller gathering for yourself the sheaves of virtue. For you sowed with tears but reaped with gladness; in the contest you competed with your blood and came away with Christ. By your intercessions, O Holy One, all are granted forgiveness of sins.

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer, with scenes from his life (

Christ is Risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!


Aaron said...

I see a lot of references to St. George as Trophy-Bearer. What "trophy" is this in reference to? Does it mean the head of the dragon? Or more generally spoils of war?

Also, is there a Greek term that the phrase is translated from?

Agioi_Anargyroi said...

St. George the Great Martyr is called "Tροπαιοφόρος" (Tropaioforos) in Greek, or Trophy-bearer, as it is often translated. I'm not 100% sure what the exact derivation of this is.

However, I have seen this title also translated as "Standard-bearer". I take it to refer to the Roman standards that originally took the form of "a flag indicating the presence of a sovereign or public official, or a flag, emblematic figure, or other object raised on a pole to indicate the rallying point of an army, fleet, etc." ( Later, standards were changed from animal images or the head of the emperor to the Cross or the Figure of Christ.

Thus, symbolically, St. George, because of his military command position in life, extreme struggles and sufferings for the faith, and many miracles after death, is undoubtedly one of the foremost archetypes, champions, and standard-bearers of the Church Triumphant. As you mentioned, his many spoils for the faith are great.

Thank you very much, and if anyone else has any corrections or anything he or she would like to add, please do so.

May St. George help us all!

iconografis said...

In romanian it is translated "Purtătorul de biruință" wich literally means "The Bearer of Victory". In the Middle Ages our leaders called him to help them in battles with different attackers; also there is a flag from that period ( he is the bearer of victory against devil or bad people.

Anonymous said...

Hi, while looking for images and references I have happened on your blog, its the most complete story of St Georges martyrdom I have ever seen, I hope you wont mind my linking to it on my own and another blogg that i administer.
May Great St George Pray for Us!

editorOrthodoxNorthwest said...


I linked your hx of St George on my post today. An interesting history nice photos and links. Thank you and Happy Feast of St George!

Unknown said...

Hi, I would like to use the material which you so thoroughly prepared and kindly posted on this site for our edification, in as much as St George's life and martyrdom is regarded. As the bloggers wrote in their comments listed above, I find this material the most complete. I would like to print a few flyers to be distributed at church, on the day of his feast which is rapidly approaching. I hope this is in good agreement with you.

St George, Great Martyr and Trophy Bearer, pray to God that we all may be saved!