Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Saints, Dragons and Giants

Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George’!

Today is St George’s Day, and I thought that rousing quote from Shakespeare’s Henry V was a good reminder of England’s patron saint, as well as remembering that this is the day we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in 1564*. George appears to have been adopted by Richard the Lionheart during the Crusades and thus went on to become the emblem of chivalry and victory of good over evil. He is also recognised by many other countries, as either their patron saint or, as being an important figure in legend. There are therefore many images of him, sword in hand, slaying the fearsome dragon.

Fellow blogger Brett Payne provided this first photo, taken in Plaza de San Marcelo, Leon in 2013, when Brett was walking the Camino de Santiago. I was holidaying with my husband in Northern Spain at the time and we had engineered an historic meeting in Burgos with Brett. We went on to visit Leon the next day whilst Brett took a short break from the Camino to see Madrid and arrived in Leon a few days after us. I had failed to get a decent image of George and so Brett kindly shared his own great photo. St George and his strange looking dragon were over the entrance to a bank; perhaps as a warning not to try any funny business. The building, Casa Fernandez y Andres, also known as Casa La Botines, was designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi, famous for the Cathedral La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. His friend, Llorenc Matamala executed the wonderful sculpture, preparing the plaster model on the Sagrada site, to Gaudi’s instructions and under his watchful eye. When the statue was taken down for restoration in 1951, a lead tube was found behind it, inside of which were the original plans for the whole complex and signed by Gaudi.**

The following year I noticed George in Cordoba, Andalusia, on the walls of the Cathedral. Now I shall be on the lookout for him everywhere. I haven’t seen him in Lanzarote, and don’t think that’s very likely, but I hope to spot him when we return to Northern Spain later in the Summer.

When we lived in Salisbury, England, I took this picture, in the late 1990s, of Gilbert the Dragon who appeared at various locations throughout the city, courtesy of the Parks Department. He was made up of over 6,400 plants, mostly sedums, and weighed one and a half tonnes. I don’t think he’s a particularly ferocious looking dragon, despite the cage surrounding him, and would be more likely to be adopted as a pet by Saint George, than slain with a sword. As far as I know he still appears each Summer in the city centre and is something of a tourist attraction.

Salisbury is also home to the giant Christopher and the beadle Hob-Nob, who are now part of the St George’s Day parade in the city. The Giant has a long history, the roots of which are uncertain but seem to be linked to folklore. The original was paraded on many historic occasions and is now housed in the city’s museum; his modern contemporary joins the Sarum Morris men for Riding the Jorge, a re-enactment of a medieval pageant when George fought and valiantly killed the dragon.

St George’s Day celebrations in Salisbury 2007 by Steve Elliot via Flickr Commons

There will be celebrations and parades all over England over the next few days. Have a great St George’s Day/Weekend wherever you are, and may the sun shine on your parade.

This is my submission for Sepia Saturday. Join the parade and see what others have contributed there in the way of old photos and history.

* "Partly because many babies died soon after they were usually baptized, as the Prayer Book recommended, no later than 'the Sunday or holy day next after the child be born’. for centuries now, Shakespeare’s birthday has been celebrated on 23 April, which happens to be St George’s Day, and is also the date on which he died.” Professor Stanley Wells ‘Shakespeare For All Time’.

** 'Antoni Gaudi, 1852-1926, From Nature to Architecture' by Maria Antonietta Crippa


  1. Tremendously interesting post, a celebration of course not one we'll be parading in my area, sadly. But I'm with you in spirit! That dragon is incredible as are all your photos!

  2. Gilbert looks part dog-part kangaroo. But creatures made from plants are fun to study. I like noticing what plants were used to create different features and the variety of color and texture.

    We don't celebrate St. George's Day here. It sounds very festive though.

  3. Gilbert the Dragon is really cute, not scary the way I imagine dragons to be.


  4. I remember seeing Gilbert the dragon in Salisbury (I go there to get my hair done) but didn’t think to take a photo at the time.
    Happy St. George's day from Somerset UK

  5. St George is the patron of Amersfoort as well. Based on your photo I think small dragons will make for nice house pets, although it will become problematic when they become older (as Daenerys Targaryen can confirm). I think in the photo of the bank St. George represents the bankers, and the dragon represents their clients...

  6. That first dragon looks like a crocidile.

  7. Interesting! I didn't know about St George's Day as we don't celebrate it.

    I am with Kristin, I initially thought it was a crocodile too.

  8. I'm a third for the crocodile theory. I knew the general story of St. George, but I never knew the dragon had a name, for goodness' sake!

  9. St. George makes a great heroic figure. The Wikipedia entry has this link to an Egyptian sculpture (circa 400AD) of Horus slaying a crocodile which is very similar.

  10. St George is a real traveller, and managed to wangle his way into the hearts of a lot of different nationalities. Where did I hear that he was the patron saint of most recently? It's slipped my mind. A real talent for publicity - him and his dragon. :)

  11. Very informative, I got to know a bit about St. George as we don't celebrate his day here in Canada.

  12. Glad to see that photo get another airing. I get the impression Gaudi was trying to say something ...

  13. Here in Australia St George's main claim to fame is having a bank named after him, with advertisements featuring friendly dragons :-)

  14. I did not forget to fly a flag for St Georges Day, but not St George's flag as per the flag of England. You will understand why I avoid St George's flag, let us just say it has associations in England and I don't want my flag flying to be misinterpreted. For those less familiar with the quirks of society in the UK, try reading this example: http://goo.gl/fTvFEc.
    So for St George's day I flew the Georgia flag (the country not the US state). It is the red St Georges cross, but with a small red cross in each quadrant,a Bolnisi cross I am now informed by Wikipedia.
    The Bolnisi cross (Georgian: ბოლნისის ჯვარი bolnisis ǰvari) is a cross symbol, taken from a 5th-century ornament at the Bolnisi Sioni church, which came to be used as a national symbol of Georgia.It is a variant of the Cross pattée popular in Christian symbolism of late antiquity and the early medieval period. The same symbol gave rise to cross variants used during the Crusades, the Maltese cross of the Knights Hospitaller and (via the Jerusalem cross and the Black cross of the Teutonic Order) the Iron cross used by the German military.

  15. Your post reminded me of how enthralled I was with St. George and the dragon when I was younger. I once had a gorgeous jigsaw puzzle of a painting or statue of St. George and the dragon. I must have put that puzzle together dozens upon dozens of times --- and it was a 1000 piecer!

  16. When bloggers meet, something positive always results. Great pictures Marilyn (and Brett)


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