Each Christian nation has its own ‘Patron Saint’ who in times of great peril is called upon to help protect a country from its enemies.
St George is the patron saint of both Ethiopia, England and is traditionally revered in many other countries including Armenia, Georgia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Palestine, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Syria and the Ukraine.
In this blog article I aim to outline a brief history of St George and bring forth some reasoning as to why he is so revered in some places, intertwined deeply with the identity of others and has been very important to the monarchies and church of both Ethiopia and England.
Who was Saint George?
St George is recorded as living his life in the region that is today described as the middle east (Turkey, Lydda, Syria region) known geographically as North East of Africa and previously described on European world maps as Arabia, part of Asia. Born around 280 Ad and Died on the 23rd of April 303 in the gregorian Calendar and the 6th of May in the Julian Calender. The 23rd of April, here in the Uk has traditionally been a day associated with patriotism, the St George Cross being both the symbol of the flag of England (and part of the Great British Union Jack) and also featured on the crest of the City of London.
Although he was born in Palestina / Turkey / Syria region, legend tells us that George was a child of Greek parents but interestingly within the oldest paintings of the Orthodox Church of Greece he is depicted as an African or Aethiopian as he would have been known at the time in Greece.
St George of lydda is most popularly known for slaying the Dragon and we are also told according to legend that his occupation was a Roman soldier and officer in the Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, who ordered his death by Rome for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
Through the coptic church of Alexendria and Egypt, the matrydom of St George would have been a well known legend early in the history of the Ethiopian Christian tradition and evidence of this is seen in the northern town of Lalibela.
A major place of spiritual importance and a pilgrimage destination for Christians to this day. Lalibela is home to a breathtaking network of eleven rock hewn churches. A place i have been blessed to visit myself in person for the 1st time in 2016 (Some photos from our trip below). One of the most prominent churches is known in amharic as Bete Giyorgis, the Church of St George and we were shown hoove marks in one of the passage ways said to have been left by the horse of St George after he visited mystically whilst the building was in progress.
”According to Ethiopian cultural history, Bete Giyorgis was built because of a vision experienced by King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela of the Zagwe Dynasty (a poorly documented period, one of the most obscure in Ethiopian history, which extended from 1137 to 1270). St George and God are said to have appeared to the King and given instructions to sculpt the church, which seems to have been the last of the churches created on the site, it stands slightly apart from the main complex of ten churches, and is connected to them by a system of trenches. ”
St George : A Saint for All – Samantha Riches
When pondering the patron saints, St George feels somewhat naturally coupled with Ethiopia, the independent Africa nation has the longest history of defeating invading forces and with this St George is often depicted with the enemy being defeated akin to the dragon. In 1896 Emperor Menelik’s forces defeated the first wave of colonial ambition from Italy and this was repeated when Emperor Haile Selassie was restored to his throne in 1941, overcoming five years of illegal Italian occupation. Both these victories were congruent with what would have been a well known historical precedent as in 1632 under Emperor Fasilides, Christian and Muslim forces had unified to fight and remove the Roman Catholic Portuguese previously in Ethiopia to help in a Christian/Islamic battle but having vastly overstayed their welcome.
In Addis Ababa, the historic St Georges Cathedral was commissioned by Emperor Menelik II after the battle of Adwa in 1896. Paintings and murals inside depict the coronations of Ethiopian Emperors, the martyr St George himself and moments of the nation’s victory over adversity, the fight against colonialism for both Emperor Menelik and Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Empress Zewditu of Ethiopia was crowned at this Cathedral in 1917, and Emperor Haile Selassie was famously crowned there in 1930.
Ethiopia has her own ”Order of St George”, a special award and highest honor for outstanding military achievement and service to Ethiopia. Similar to this, during World War 2 King George V1 of England established the St George Cross for outstanding acts of Valour during the War.
St George is also the name for arguably the most popular beer in Ethiopia, St George Brewery being founded in Addis Ababa by a Belgian living in the city under the rule of Emperor Menelik and Empress Taitu. It was next ran by german owners before eventually transferring to Ethiopian state ownership in the 1950s.
Ethiopia has close relations to St George and the legend of him defeating the dragon and the symbolism with the battle of victory of good against evil still resonates today. However, George patron saint of England seems to make little sense to people today, especially in comparison to Ireland with St Patrick, known in legend to have rid Ireland of snakes (or ”Pagan” people with their diverse spiritual practices as it is most likely to have meant).
In a newspaper published in the past week for St Georges day, I read this statement:
”Unlike Ireland and St Patrick, who is said to have converted the emerald Isle to Christianity, St George has no obvious connection to England. ‘‘
Or does he? For me, in this situation and many others, studying Ethiopian history and the life work of Emperor Haile Selassie has acted as a perfect looking glass or even a ”Rosetta Stone” for understanding the modern geo-political world situtation and the deeply rooted religious symbolism intertwined with our every day in the monuments / buildings we walk past or national celebrations some may observe.
In order to understand it deeper, we have to look to the history of the Roman Empire, the settlement in England that survived the fall of Old Rome itself and the shared symbolic representation of St George between England and the City of London in the person of St George. I recommend these videos for a quick overview of the complex history of the Secret city of London and a familiarization of the structure, roots and symbols.
The City of London
Considering the connections of the City of London (or Londinium) to the Roman Empire, it now seems appropriate that St George would be patron saint, especially as this ”city within a city” survives with powerful influence today, (embracing St george after it switched under Emperor Constantine to Christianity from paganism with the rest of the Roman Empire). The city was never properly conquered by the Indigenous people of Britain, as would have been dreamt of by the likes of Boudica of the Iceni tribe and many others fighting fiercely against Roman occupation and attempting to attack Londinium earlier in Britains history.
The original patron saint of England was St Edmund, but his influence was diminished when Richard the Lionheart (1157 – 1199) adopted St George as the protector of his army whilst acknowledging the popularity of St George on one of his crusades . The fame of Saint George at this time had been widespread over the East, and the Crusaders brought their devotion for the warrior Saint back to Europe.
St Edmund was finally replaced when King Edward III formed the Order of the Garter in St. George’s name in 1350 and made him the Patron Saint of England.
The Order of the Garter is Britain’s highest order of Chivalry awarded by the Monarch to fellow Knights of the realm but it also has been used with the functional tradition of honouring fellow international monarchs.
”Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is a code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood which developed between 1170 and 1220. The ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, particularly in Britain and France.” Wikipedia
Interestingly Chivalry, and in particular Knighthood of this kind can be traced back to an invention of the Moors of North Africa, as was highlighted in the 19th Century by french literary historian Emile Theodore Leon Gautier. Also both Edward III and his son Prince Edward ”The Black Prince” have been rumored as part of the hidden history of Britain to have been of African “Moor” heritage themselves. The oldest portraits from the Garter Book of 1430 and who the artist may have been painting are fascinating to examine from this perspective.
Guatier also summarised the customs and practice of Chivalry compiling them into a ”Ten Commandments” in 1883 so people could understand the historic principle and code of practice of chivalry.
Gautier’s Ten Commandments of chivalry are:
- Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches and thou shalt observe its directions.
- Thou shalt defend the Church.
- Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
- Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
- Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
- Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.
- Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
- Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
- Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
- Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.
The Stranger Knight of St George
Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia was honoured with the special accolade of stranger knight into the St Georges Order of the Garter in 1954. Receiving awards of this kind were of course not uncommon for His Imperial Majesty, who was frequently being recognised with prestigious awards from universities, governments / fellow monarchies of the world and he is even recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records as having had the ”Most Bemeddalled Chest on Record”.
The awards from the Order of the Garter are always made on St Georges day with the adornments and symbols of St George. The accolade of stranger knight and awards of this kind had traditionally been used by monarchs between Christian nations especially as a way of acquiring political allies. His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie was well known for expertly maneuvering Western Governments to acheive the progress he wanted in Africa and this could have been Britain’s attempt at winning back favour with the deeply Orthodox Christian Emperor through an acknowledgement of each nation’s shared love for Saint George .
His Majesty was openly very suspicious of the intentions of Britain in East Africa, hastily and persistently working (with great help from Sylvia Pankhurst) to usher out Britain from any kind of attempted influence in governmental affairs after returning to the throne in 1941, this was achieved completely in 1954 when Ethiopia was restored to its internationally recognised borders of 1935, prior to illegal Italian occupation.
See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Ethiopian_Agreement for more information and also the book by the late Dr Richard Pankhurst : Sylvia Pankhurst Council for Ethiopia. Chapter 11 Also: Slyvia Pankhurst: Opinions of the Emperor
See below Video for further information with regards to the Order of the Garter and the meaning of a ”Stranger Knight” from a Russian Monarchical perspective.
To this day, His Imperial Majesty has an intricately crafted stall plate in St Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle depicting both the Imperial Crest of the Solomonic Throne, the Symbol of the Lion of Judah, the Imperial Crown of Ethiopia and the motto of the order of the garter -.Honi soit qui mal y pense “May he be shamed who thinks badly of it”.
Here is a list of some of the Accolades and Foreign Awards of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia :
1917 Grand Cordon, The Most Exalted Order of the Queen of Sheba 1930 Knight, The Imperial Order of Solomon:
1930 Knight Grand Cross, The Imperial Order of the Holy Trinity
1924 Knight Grand Cross, Order of Emperor Menelik II
1924 Negus (Knight Grand Cross), The Imperial Order of the Star of Ethiopia
1923 Military Medal of Merit of the Order of St.George with 3 Palms
1936 Distinguished Military Medal of Haile Selassie I, with 3 Palms
1936 Medal for Military Merit in gold 1936 Tigre Expedition Medal in silver, awarded 2 times (2 Palms)
1944 Medal for Patriotism with 5 Palms
1941 “Dil-Kokeb” The Star of Victory 1941
1953 Eritrean Medal of Haile Selassie I
1941 Medal for Underground Patriotism 1941 with 5 Palms
1930 Coronation Medal of Emperor Haile Selassie I, 1930
1955 Imperial Jubilee Coronation Medal
1944 The Refugee’s Medal (for war exiles) with 5 palms
1957 Restoration Medal
1959 “Memihiran” Scholarship Medal (also known as Teachers Medal)
1951 Commemorative Medal for the Korean War
1966 25th Anniversaire Medal of the Victory of 1941
1917 U.K. G.C.M.G. (Knight Grand Cross, The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael & St. George)
1917 Italy, Grand Cross Order of the Crown of Italy (Returned 1936)
1918 France, Grand Officer, Legion of Honour
1924 Egypt, Grand Cordon, Royal Order of Mohammed Ali
1924 France, Grand Croix, Legion of Honour
1924 Italy, Grand Cross Order of St .Maurice & St. Lazarus (Returned 1936)
1924 Belgium, Grand Cross Order of Leopold (Military Division)
1924 Luxemburg, Knight, Order of the Golden Lion of Nassau
1924 Sweden, Knight, Order of Seraphim
1924 U.K. G.C.B., (Knight Grand Cross, Most Honourable Order of the Bath)
1924 Portugal, Grand Cross Military Order of Aviz
1924 Greece, Grand Cross Royal Order of the Redeemer
1925 Portugal, Grand Cross Military Order of the Tower & Sword
1928 Italy, Knight, Supreme Order of the Annunciation (Returned 1936)
1930 Egypt, Collar, Royal Order of Mohammed Ali
1930 Netherlands, Grand Cross Civil Order of Merit of the Netherlands Lion
1930 Poland, Grand Cross Order of Polonia Restituta
1930 Japan, Grand Commander, Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
1930 U.K. G.C.V.O. (Knight Grand Cross, Royal Victorian Order)
1930 U.K. The Royal Victorian Chain
1945 USA, Chief Commander, Legion of Merit
1945 Norway Grand Cross with Collar, Order of St. Olav
1949 Finland, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of the White Rose
1949 Portugal, Ribband of the Three Orders
1949 Spain, Grand Cross with Collar, Distinguished Order of Charles III
1950 Lebanon, Superior Class, The Merit Decoration
1950 Syria, Grand Cordon, Order of Omayyadh
1950 Jordan, Grand Commander, Order of Hussein Ibn Ali (no Sash ?)
1950 Iraq, Grand Cordon with Collar, Order of the Hashemites
1953 U.K. Coronation Medal 1953
1954 Mexico, Grand Collar, Order of the Aztec Eagle
21.7.1954 Yugoslavia, The Yugoslav Grand Star
1954 Czechoslovakia, 1st Class with Collar, Order of the White Lion (Military Division)
1954 Austria, Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash, Decoration of Honour for Merit
1954 Germany, Gran Cross Special Class, Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
1954″Great Chief Buffalo”, with the honor & rank of Chief of the Pawnee Native American Indian tribe.
1954 France, Croix de Guerre with Palm (War Cross)
1954 France, Medaille Militaire (Military Medal)
1954 U.K., K.G. (Knight, Noble Order of the Garter) (No Sash or Ribbon)
1954 Netherlands, Grand Cross Military Order of Willem (William)
1954 Denmark, Knight, Order of the Elephant
1954 Sweden, Collar, Order of Seraphim (no Sash)
1955 Italy, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
1956 Libya, Grand Collar, Royal Order of Idris I
1956 Japan, Collar, Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum
1956 Republic of Korea (South Korea), 1st Class, Order of National Foundation
1958 Brazil, GC with Collar, Order of the Southern Cross
1958 Pakistan, 2nd Class, Order of Pakistan (Hilal-i-Pakistan)
1958 Burma Grand Commander, Agha Maha Thudhamma
1958 Thailand, Knight, Most Illustrious Order of the Royal House of Chakri
1958 Malaysia, Grand Knight, Most Exalted Order of the National Crown
1958 Indonesia, 1st Class, Bintang Republik Indonesia
1958 Vietnam 1st Class, National Order of Vietnam
1958 Philippines, Raja, Ancient Order of Sikatuna
1960 Somalia, Grand Cordon, Order of the Somali Star
1963 Togo, Grand Commander, Order of Mono
1963 Upper Volta, Grand Cordon, National Order of Upper Volta
1963 Ivory Coast, Grand Cross National Order of Cote d?Ivoire
1963 Liberia, Knight Grand Band, Order of the Pioneers of the Republic
1963 Senegal, Grand Cross Order of the Lion
1963 Mali, Grand Cross with Collar, National Order of Merit
1963 Niger, Grand Cross National Order of Niger
1963 Chad, Grand Cross National Order of Merit
1963 Nigeria, Grand Commander, Order of the Federal Republic
1964 Hungary, 1st Class with Diamonds, Order of the Banner of the P.R. of Hungary (no Ribbon)
1964 Tunisia, Grand Collar, Order of Independence
1962 Morocco, Grand Collar, Order of Mohammed (no Ribbon)
1964 Buganda, Commander, Order of the Shield & Spears of Buganda Kingdom
1964 Iran, Collar, Pahlevi Order of Iran
1965/66 Dahomey, CC National Order of Dahomey
1965/66 Cambodia, Grand Collar, Order of Independence
1966 Haiti, Grand Cross Order of Honour & Merit
1966 Venezuela Grand Cross with Collar, The Order of the Bust of the Liberator Simon Bolivar
1966 Bolivia, Grand Cross National Order of the Condor of the Andes
1966 Peru, Grand Cross Order of the Peruvian Sun
1966 Chile, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of Merit
1966 Kenya, Grand Chief, Order of the Golden Heart
1967 Iran, Coronation Medal of the Shah of Iran 1967
1968 Zaire, Grand Cross with Collar, Order of the Leopard
1968 Burundi, Grand Cross Order of the Republic
1968 Malawi, Grand Cross Order of the Lion
1968 Zambia, Grand Commander, Order of the Eagle of Zambia
1968 Malagasy Republic, Grand Commander, National Order of the Malagasy Republic
1968/70 Central African Republic, Grand Cross Order of Merit of Central Africa
1968/70 Congo, Grand Cross National Order of Congolese Merit
1968/70 Gabon, Grand Commander, Order of the Equatorial Star
1968/70 Cameroun, Grand Cross Order of Valour
1968/70 Mauritania, Grand Cordon, National Order of Mauritania
1968/70 Guinea, Grand Cordon, National Order of Guinea
1970 Sudan, The Insignia of Honour
1970 Vatican State, Knight Grand Cross, Order of Pius IX
1970 Ghana, 1st Class, Order of the Star
1970 Argentina Grand Cross Order of San Martin
1970 Iraq 1st Class, Order of Ar-Rafidan (Military Division)
1971 Iran, 2500 Anniversaire Medal of the Foundation of the Persian Monarchy
1971 Saudi Arabia, Grand Cordon, Order of King Abdul Aziz
1972 Uganda, Grand Commander, Order of the Source of the Nile
In the spirit of St George on this St Georges day (just passed in the gregorian calender and soon approaching us in the Julian Calender) may we all find strength to slay our Dragons and let the legendary defiance of the likes of St George, Iyseus Kristos, Hannibal Barca, King Menelik II, Empress Taitu, Emperor Haile Selassie I and many others against the destructive ideals of ancient/modern Rome keep inspiring us today.
Truth + Rights
Ras Benji 2017