England celebrates its national day today, with the spotlight shining on St George. Andy Richardson unearths 20 facts that people don't know about our patron saint.
1. Despite the fact that St George has been England's patron saint since the 14th century, a recent survey showed that only one in five people know that St George's Day falls on April 23.
2. The same survey showed that a quarter of English people do not even know who their patron saint is.
3. St George died on the same date as Shakespeare. St George died on 23 while Shakespeare followed on that day in 1616.
4. A popular custom in bygone years was for people to wear a red rose in their button hole, the national flower for the national day.
5. St George is also the patron saint of scouting.
6. The most popular story about St George is of him slaying a dragon. However, in reality, it is highly unlikely that he did. During the Middle Ages, dragons commonly represented the devil. It is more probable that he chased away bad spirits.
7. Despite the improbability that St George actually fought a dragon, stories persist. In one version, the dragon's scales were so hard that St George's spear shattered into a thousand pieces.
8. The real St George is believed to have been a brave Roman solider who protested again the Romans' torture of Christians.
9. St George's flag was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. Soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.
10. St George is believed to have been a soldier from Syrian Palestine, who was in the Guard of Diocletian.
11. Christians recognise St George as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
12. St George's birth date is believed to have been sometime between 275AD and 285AD.
13. The English devotion to St George pre-date the Norman Conquest, in the 11th century.
14. In Georgia, St George has been devoted to their patron saint since the 4th century.
15. There are 365 Orthodox churches in Georgia named after St George, according to the number of days in a year.
16. St George was beheaded at Lydda, in Palestine.
17. April 23 was named St George's Day in 1222.
18. St George is also the patron saint of Lithuania, Portugal, Germany and Greece, as well as cities including Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice.
19. St George is believed to have been tortured. He was crushed between two spiked wheels and boiled in molten lead. Legend says neither killed him.
20. St George was adopted in England because the story in The Golden Legend, about his slaying of a dragon, was similar to an Anglo-Saxon legend.