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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

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Saint George and the Dragon

The episode of Saint George and the Dragon appended to the hagiography of Saint George was Eastern in origin, brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Romance. The earliest known depiction of the motif is from early eleventh-century Cappadocia; the earliest known surviving narrative is an eleventh-century Georgian text.

The legend

According to the Golden Legend the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place in a place he called "Silene," in Libya. There was no such place, the name being perhaps a corruption of Cyrene. The Golden Legend is the first to place this legend in Libya, as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be imagined.

This town had a pond large as a lake where a plague-bearing dragon dwelled that envenomed all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it a sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery.

It happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter. The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, decked out as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.

Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain.

The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross, charged it on horseback with his lance and gave it a grievous wound. Then he called to the princess to throw him her girdle and put it around the dragon's neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash. She and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them.

The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. "Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children." On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.

Traditionally, the lance with which St. George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, a name recalling the city of Ashkelon, Israel. From this tradition, the name Ascalon was used by Winston Churchill for his personal aircraft during World War II (records at Bletchley Park), since St. George is the Patron Saint of England.

From: Wikipedia

St George and the Dragon

The following is from: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

A popular motif for decorating jewelry since the 16th century, depicting St George mounted on a horse slaying the dragon with his spear. It is found on some gold pendants and brooches decorated with enamelling and gemstones.

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