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216 × 138 mm
160 pages
34 illustrations
16 Mar 2015

St George A Saint for All Samantha Riches

The image of St George – the medieval knight on his horse, slaying a dragon – is so familiar that it is tempting to assume his history is a simple one, but the reality is very different. St George is one of the most significant mythic characters in Christian culture but he can also be found in other religious traditions, appearing in numerous different guises in cultures the world over. An important figure in Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and western European churches, his analogues can be found in Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and the Afro-Brazilian belief system Candomblé; he also makes frequent appearances in ‘pagan’ belief systems due to his identification with nature, springtime and healing.

With or without his dragon, St George has been repeatedly reinvented over the last 1,700 years. Samantha Riches explores this saint’s significance in nations as varied as Lebanon, Ethiopia and Estonia as well as his totemic role for the Roma people, and provides first-hand accounts of celebrations in Georgia, Greece, Malta and Belgium. She describes the inspiration that artists, poets and playwrights have found in myths of St George and considers the sometimes controversial political uses to which the saint has been put.

The first book to draw together many aspects of the international cult of St George alongside some of the evidence for elements in his English cult that have been largely forgotten, St George: A Saint for All is a fascinating history of an enduring icon.

St George: A Saint for All is a readable and well-researched book written by an academic who knows her subject. In her thesis the author says that for far too long St George has remained a mythical figure and, even worse, has been hijacked by bigots and extremists who wrap themselves in his flag and are threatening to any who do not agree with their blinkered view about “Little England”. Samantha Riches has done much to reinstate him in a more rational and favourably inclusive light.’ – Methodist Recorder

‘Anyone who thinks that the cult of St George is particular to England, or that he is always or even primarily a dragon-slayer, should read this book . . . Riches gives brief but lively accounts of a few festivals she has witnessed, notably the annual Trinity procession at Mons in Belgium . . . informative and interesting for the general reader.’ – Folklore

‘An excellent book about a legend that has endured to the present day.’ – Miami News

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Samantha Riches is a cultural historian based at Lancaster University. She is the author of Gender and Holiness: Men, Women and Saints in Late Medieval Europe (2011) and St George: Hero, Martyr and Myth (2005).