Saint George is one of the most popular saints of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Canonized for acts of bravery, he usually appears on icons astride a white steed, his lance stabbing the throat of a fallen dragon underfoot. Legend tells us that the dragon terrorized the countryside until Saint George arrived and vanquished the beast.
The Life of Saint George
Saint George was born in Palestine in the last quarter of the third century CE. He is thought to have been born into a Christian family and raised in the Christian faith. His father was a Roman military official from Asia Minor. His mother was from Palestine. His father died when he was 14 years old, and his mother few years later.
After his parents died, George traveled to Nicomedia to apply for the military. Diocletian accepted him, having known his father, and George rose to the rank of Tribune in Emperor’s imperial guard.
In 302 Diocletian issued an edict ordering the arrest of all Christian soldiers. George strongly objected, proclaiming his own faith publically for all to see. Not wanting to lose a trusted man, Diocletian tried to convert George, making him promises of land and riches if he would renounce his Christian faith. But George refused. Left with no other choice, Diocletian had him arrested, tortured, and executed by decapitation on 23 April 303.
George’s body was returned to Lydda in Palestine, where he was buried. A Church was built to house his relics during the reign of Constantine the Great. The current Church of Saint George was built in 1870.
Saint George in Bulgaria and around Europe
Saint George is widely venerated throughout Europe. He is the patron saint of many nations, including England, Russia, Portugal and Greece. In Bulgaria, he is the Patron Saint of the Bulgarian Army.
The Saint George Rotunda Church in Sofia, the oldest church in the city, is dedicated to his memory. The church celebrates a special liturgy honoring St. George weekly.
The Gergiovden (BG: Гергьовден), the Feast of St. George, is celebrated on 6 May, coinciding with Bulgarian Armed Forces Day.