The patron saint of England is celebrated on St George’s Day (April 23rd) every year, but there are references to him to be found around London any time you like. From street names to his flag featuring on The City of London’s official crest, it’s almost impossible to escape this patriotic hero. If you’re staying in one of central London’s serviced apartments, then now’s your chance to spot everything St George-related.
Who was St George?
Although irrevocably linked to England, St George was actually born in Turkey and became a Roman soldier. He opposed the actions of the pagan Emperor Diocletian, who was persecuting Christians, and was eventually beheaded for standing against them being killed. St George is seen to represent honour, bravery and gallantry – traits that are praised by the English. Richard the Lion Heart adopted the saint’s emblem of a red cross on a white background and brought it to England in the 12th century, allowing his troops to stand out in battle with it emblazoned on their tunics.
The City’s coat of arms
Among the first things associated with St George that you’ll notice upon entering The City is the area’s coat of arms. At the centre of this crest is a red cross against a white background, which is of course the flag of St George. It has been used as the symbol of The City since 1381, when it was adopted as the new mayoralty seal on April 17th that year.
Look out for the coats of arms around The City, especially at the boundaries to the rest of modern-day London. Short black posts marking out the line all bear the coats of arms, while at ten locations there is a more ostentatious representation that you are about to enter The City. They are statues of dragons each holding up a shield featuring the St George’s cross. They can be found in locations including the Victoria Embankment and important bridges offering access to The City.
St George’s Fields
Not far from The City, over the river in Southwark, is an area that was once known as St George’s Fields. There are plenty of references to the saint nearby, from St George’s Road to St George’s Circus, where a historic obelisk can be found at its centre. This monument marks a point exactly one mile from Fleet Street, London Bridge and Palace Yard. It was constructed in 1771 and placed in its current location, although it was moved in 1905, before being returned to St George’s Circus in the 1990s.
St George’s Cathedral
Before Westminster Cathedral was opened, St George’s in Southwark was the most important church in the whole of England. It was designed by Augustus Pugin and opened in 1848, capable of seating up to 3,000 parishioners. Just two years later, Pope Pius IX made it a cathedral and for 50 years it was the centre of Catholic life in London.
The Feast of St George
To really celebrate all things English and St George, head along to Trafalgar Square on April 23rd at 12pm. This free event offers everyone the chance to enjoy a banquet, live music and a variety of activities. Families can get involved with indoor and outdoor games and budding chefs can watch the cooking demonstrations going on. As 2016 marks 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare – another icon of English culture – this year’s event will include activities relating to the great playwright. He was born and died on April 23rd, linking him with the feast day.
Borough Market’s St George’s Day celebrations
Borough Market will be holding a special St George’s Day event on April 24th, celebrating all of the associations the saint has. As well as being the patron saint of England, St George also claims this honour for Catalonia and he is said to watch over farmers, shepherds and butchers. All of these elements will be at the forefront of the event at the market, with special guest stall holders coming over from Catalonia for the occasion.
Sunday mornings in Borough Market are a bustling affair, so anyone with access to one of central London’s serviced apartments for the weekend should certainly make their way along.
Raise a pint to St George
If all you’d like to do is raise a glass to St George this weekend, then head to the George pub near Liverpool Street Station. This beautiful establishment, which has the saint’s flag sitting inside a shield as its emblem, has original Victorian oak panels and a stunning decorative ceiling. There are few better surroundings in which to mark the occasion.