Saint George and his dragon must together comprise one of the most famous icons of a saint there is, not least in England where St George is our patron saint. Yet as I was to discover only last weekend, we English are not the only country to claim him as ours. In fact St George is likewise a patron saint in Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Portugal, Ukraine and Syria to name but a few. He is also, I have now learned, the patron saint of none other than Catalonia, the autonomous region of Spain whose capital is Barcelona. And so having just spent the weekend in that very city, there seems no better time than to present the very first Saint of a new Norm sketch collection – I give you Saint George Norm.
Legend has it that St George defeated a dragon in the far off land of Silene. This dragon poisoned the air of a village, and in order to appease him, the people regularly sacrificed a lamb and a virgin who was chosen. One day the princess of the country met this fate; George killed the dragon and freed her, with the result that the Princess and the entire population were converted to Christianity; the religion behind whose cross St George had been protected as he valiantly fought the beast.
Here is my Saint Norm doing just that, killing the pesky dragon while his rather attractive horse looks on.
I realised that St George was something of a prominent figure in Catalonia only when I noticed statues and icons of the saint when exploring the old gothic quarter of Barcelona on my first day there last weekend. In the tranquil cloisters of the cathedral, a trickling fountain was topped by a bronze statuette of the saint valiantly riding his horse while trampling upon the dying body of the aggressive dragon. Then, upon walking past the city hall in the Plaça St Juame, I noticed the same venerable saint carved into the stone work of the city hall facade. Subsequent investigations reveal that “Sant Jordi” has been venerated in Catalonia since the 8th century, not only in Barcelona but also in Valencia and the Balearics. And in Barcelona itself, the Saint’s presence is felt not just in the obvious iconography – some say that Gaudi himself recognised the saint when he created his dragon-scaled roof atop the famous Casa Batlló.
So with all of this in mind, I leave you to pay appropriate reverence to St George Norm in all of his golden glory, and to look also upon the Barcelona references I found to the saint. But as if by way of further appropriate reference, I also leave you with this English poster using St George as an image to encourage patriotic Englishmen to defend the nation at the outset of World War One 100 years ago. A timely reminder of the continuing power of the iconography of St George to inspire both patriotism and bravery in a time when all faith and hope appeared to have deserted mankind.
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