March 5, 2006 at 8:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

At regular intervals someone in the media suggests that England should ‘change its Patron-Saint’.

Various alternative candidates are put forward, for instance St Alban,
St Augustine, St Cuthbert, St Hilda, St Swithin, St Dunstan and many others. There are two problems with all of these candidates. Although they are all obviously Saints of God, either they are venerated only regionally, or else, although they have a national reputation, they have never been venerated popularly.

The fact is that it is no coincidence that today some wish to abandon St George.
Whatever the excuse, the real reason is simply that we live in non-Christian and anti-Christian times.

Let us look a little more closely at this whole question.
Perhaps we should first take the case of
St Edmund (+869), England’s first Patron-Saint.
He was adopted because he was a symbol of national English Christian resistance to the heathen Danish invader. As Patron of the English, his national role as Patron-Saint was unique for some 300 years until the end of the twelfth century.

Next came the half-Norman Edward the Confessor (+1066).
Although he enjoyed a reputation for personal piety, there was little popular veneration until the twelfth century, Then in 1161, by supporting the Anti-Pope Alexander III, the French King of England Henry II, obtained his canonization. From this point on he began to be venerated alongside St Edmund as a second patron. However, the reasons for his canonization were largely political and ethnic.
Thus we see that by the late Twelfth-Century England had two Patron-Saints:
St Edmund for the English and Edward the Confessor for the Anglo-Norman establishment; each played a different role. But the role of both of them began to be partially eclipsed by events taking place barely a generation after Edward’s papal canonization.

In 1192 the Crusader Richard I, who had just defeated the Muslim conqueror Saladin on St George’s feast-day, 23 April, placed himself and the English army under St George’s patronage.

Consequently, by the Thirteenth Century the military establishment adopted St George as its Patron-Saint.
In St George there is indeed something of the finest part of the English national spirit, the spirit of David that stands up against Goliath, of the little island that stands up against the Continent.

By the fifteenth century this veneration for St George had truly become nationwide. St George had become a symbol of English aspiration for all those living in England.

After all, the flag of St George which was also adopted is the flag of Jerusalem, the blood-red cross of sacrifice on the white background of nobility and purity.

St Edmund was and is the Patron-Saint of all English people, wherever they live.

Edward the Confessor was, and perhaps still is, the Patron-Saint of the Anglo-Norman Establishment. (Hence his position in Westminster Abbey, the original of which he had built by his Norman friends).

St George was and is the Patron-Saint of all who live in England..


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