The Legend of Saint George

The Legend of Saint George
The Legend of Saint George

Throughout Europe in the later middle ages the story of St. George was best known in the form in which it was presented in the Legend Aurea of Bd James de Voragine. William Caxton translated the work and printed it. Therein we are told that St. George was a Christian knight and that he was born in Cappadocia. It chanced, however, that he was riding one day in the province of Lybia, and there he came upon a city called Sylene, near which was a marshy swamp. In this lived a dragon ” which envenomed all the country”. The people had mustered together to attack and kill it, but its breath was so terrible that all had fled. To prevent its coming nearer they supplied it every day with two sheep, but when the sheep grew scarce, a human victim had to be substituted. This victim was selected by lot, and the lot just then had fallen on the king’s own daughter. No one was willing to take her place and the maiden had gone forth dressed as a bride to meet her doom. Then St. George, coming upon the scene, attacked the dragon and transfixed it with his lance. Further , he borrowed the maiden’s girdle, fastened it round the dragon’s neck, and with this aid she led the monster captive into the city. “It followed her as if it had been a meek beast and debonair.” The people in mortal terror were about to take to flight, but St. George told them to have no fear. If only they would believe and be baptized, he would slay the dragon. The king and all his subjects gladly assented. The dragon was killed and four ox-carts were needed to carry the carcass to a safe distance. “Then there well XV thousand men baptized without women and children.” The king offered St. George great treasures, but he bade them to be given to the poor instead. Before taking his leave the good knight left behind four behests: that the king should maintain churches, that he should honour priests, that he should himself diligently attend religious services, and that he should show compassion to the poor.

At this period under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian a great persecution began against the Christians. George, seeing that some were terrified into apostasy, in order to set a good example went boldly into a public place and cried out, ” All the gods of the paynims and gentiles are devils. My God made the heavens and is very God.” Datianus the ” provost” arrested him and failing to move him by cajolery had him strung up and beaten with clubs and then tortured with red-hot irons. Our Saviour, however, came in the night to him to health. Next a magician was brought to prepare a potion for George with deadly poison, but the draught took no effect and the magician, being converted, himself died a martyr. Then followed an attempt to crush the saint between two spiked wheels, and after that to boil him death in a caldron of molten lead: but without any result. So Datianus once more had recourse to promise soft words, and George, pretending to be shaken, let them think that he was willing to offer sacrifice. All the people of the city assembled in the temple to witness the surrender of this obstinate blasphemer of the gods; but George prayed, and fire coming down from Heaven destroyed the building, the idols and the heathen priests, while the earth opened at the same time to swallow them up. Datianus’s wife witnessing these things was converted; but her husband ordered the saint to be decapitated, which took place without difficulty, though Datianus himself returning from the scene was consumed by fire from Heaven.

This is a comparatively mild version of the Acts of St. George, which existed from an early date in a great variety of forms. It should be noted, however, that the story of the dragon, though given so much prominence, was a later accretion, of which we have no sure traces before the twelfth century. This puts out of court the attempts made by many folklorists to present St. George as no more than a christianized survival of pagan mythology, of Theseus, for example, or Hercules, the former of whom vanquished the Minotaur, the latter the hydra of Lerna. There is every reason to believe that St. George was a real martyr who suffered at Diospolis ( i.e. Lydda) in Palestine, probably before the time of Constantine. Beyond this there seems to be nothing which can be affirmed with any confidence. The cult is certainly early, though the martyr is not mentioned in the Syriac ” Breviarium “. But his name ( on April 25 ) is entered in the ” Hieronymianum ” and assigned to Diospolis, and such pilgrims as Thedosius, the so-called Antoninus and Arculf, from the sixth to the eighth century, all speak of Lydda or Diospolis as the seat of the veneration of St. George and as the resting place of his relics. The idea that St. George was a Cappadocian and that his acta were compiled in Cappadocia ” is entirely the responsibility of the compiler of the acta who confused the martyr with his namesake, the celebrated George of Cappadocia, the Arian intruder into the see of Alexandria and enemy of St. Athanasius” (Father H. Delehaye).

It is not quite clear how St. George came to be specially chosen as the patron saint of England. His fame had certainly traveled to the British Isles long before the Norman Conquest. The Felire of Oengus, under April 23, speaks of ” George a sun of victories with thirty great thousands”, while Abbot Aelfric tells the whole extravagant story in a metrical homily. William of Malmesbury states that Saints George and Demetrius ” the martyr knights”, were seen assisting the Franks at the battle of Antioch in 1908, and it seems likely that the crusaders, notably King Richard I, came back from the east with a great idea of the power of St. George’s intercession. At the national synod of Oxford in 1222 St. George’s day was included among the lesser holidays, and in 1415 the constitution of Archbishop Chilchele made it one of the chief feasts of the year. In the interval King Edward III had founded the Order of the Garter, of which St. George has always been the patron. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ( till 1778 ) his feast was a holiday of obligation for English Catholics, and Pope Benedict XIV recognized him as the Protector of the Kingdom.

From Butler’s Lives of the Saints, vol. 2, pp. 148-150.
“George, Martyr, Protector of the Kingdom of England”

Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross

Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross
Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross

The Order was founded in the year 1210 by Blessed Theodore de Celles and his companions. The name Crosier is derived from the French croises; that is, those signed with the cross. In medieval England Crosiers were known as the Crutched (crossed) Friars. The designation, of course, refers to the cross and the spirituality of the Order. The primary feast of the Crosiers, the Triumph of the Cross, reflects a spirituality focused on the triumphal cross of Christ and the glorified Lord. One of the distinctive marks of the Crosiers is the red and white crusaders’ cross worn on the scapular of their religious habit.

The Order’s history may be divided into three periods. The first or medieval period was one of astonishing growth. Blessed Theodore and four companions came from Liegé in Belgium and formed a community at a place near the city of Huy called Clairlieu. They had little idea of establishing a religious order. Their mission was a life of liturgical prayer and pastoral work following the canonical tradition rather than the strictly monastic. They adopted the Rule of St. Augustine. Soon other communities were established, serving many great churches throughout Europe. At one time as many as ninety Crosier communities could be counted. They were also much involved in the running of hospices for travelers and those in pilgrimage. While the motherhouse remained at Huy for much of the Order’s history, other prominent priories were founded in France (Paris and Toulouse), in the Rhineland (Cologne), and in England (London), as well as the Low Countries.

The second period of the Order’s history was ushered in by a reform initiated at the General Chapter of 1410. This reform, influenced by a spiritual movement called the Devotio Moderna, was spearheaded by the priory of St. Agatha in the Netherlands and was typified by a very personal devotional spirituality.

While the house at Huy remained the motherhouse, St. Agatha became the spiritual center of a reformed and revitalizd Order.

The heart of the Order in the Rhineland and the Low Countries was deeply affected by the Protestant Reformation. Many of the priories and churches of the Crosiers were swept away by the Protestant Reform. Under Henry VIII, all the houses in England were surpressed. Later, at the end of the eigtheenth century, the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic reforms further reduced the number of Crosiers. In the early 1800’s, only two priories remained, St. Agatha’s and another in Uden, also in the Netherlands. By 1840, four elderly Crosiers were all that remained. Secular authorities had forbidden them to accept new members.

The modern era begins in 1840 when the law forbidding new members was repealed and surprising numbers joined the Order, some of them diocesan priests who believed all along that they had a call to religious life. Henricus van de Wijmelenberg was one joined at this time. Soon this new Crosier was appointed as the superior, and then, in 1841, as Commissary General of the revitalized Order. He began to reestablish houses in Belgium and the Netherlands and even in the missionary lands. In 1850 he sent priests and brothers to Wisconsin in the USA. In all, nine Crosiers worked among Dutch and Belgian immigrants, especially in the Green Bay area and along the Fox River. Father Edward Daems made an attempt to establish a priory, but with the onset of the Civil War, the attempt was abandoned.

A second attempt to establish an American presence by the Crosiers was made in 1910 under Master General Hollman. This time priests and brothers were sent to northern Minnesota. In 1922, a priory and school were established in the small village of Onamia, ninety miles north of Minneapolis.

At this same time, Master General Hollman successfully undertook mission ventures in other parts of the world. In 1920, he sent Crosiers to the Belgian Congo (now Congo). In 1926 he sent Crosiers to the island of Java in Indonesia. In 1934, Master General van Dinter sent missionaries to Brazil. Since 1958, Crosiers have worked in the Diocese of Agats-Asmat (Irian Jaya region of Indonesia). In 1996, that region became a pro-province, a status reflecting its remarkable growth in recent years.

Today, the worldwide Order of the Holy Cross includes foundations in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Congo, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United States. There are approximately 500 Crosiers throughout the world.

The residence (Generalate) of the Master General and his staff is found in Rome, at the Church of San Giorgio al Velabro. The Order has cared for this seventh century church since 1939.

La Storia della Basilica di San Giorgio al Velabro

La Storia della Basilica di San Giorgio al Velabro
La Storia della Basilica di San Giorgio al Velabro

La fondazione della chiesa viene fatta risalire al VII secolo ad opera del papa Leone II il quale la dedica a S. Sebastiano ed a S. Giorgio ma è probabile che la costruzione abbia utilizzato strutture murarie preesistenti, forse appartenenti ad un edificio civile di epoca classica e ad una diaconia.

La stessa pianta della chiesa, assai irregolare, è la testi-monianza di una fabbrica cresciùta per aggiunte e tra-sformazioni succedutesi in varie fasi storiche. Il papa Zaccaria (741-752), di origine greca, trasferisce dalla Cappadocia la testa del martire Giorgio che colloca nella chiesa, in quell’epoca, al centro di una zona fre-quentata da funzionari, mercanti e milizie bizantine. Consistenti lavori di rifacimento e restauro mutano l’assetto architettonico dell’edificio nel corso del IX secolo sotto il pontificato di Gregorio IV.

Nella metà del XIII secolo viene costruito il portico, dono del priore Stefano di Stella, con la bella iscrizio-ne in caratteri gotici sulla trabeazione che lo ricorda; probabilmente nello stesso periodo o poco prima viene eretto anche il campanile.

Tra la fine del Duecento ed i primi anni del Trecento, si esegue l’affresco nell’abside donato dal cardinale Giacomo Gaetano Stefaneschi ed attribuito al Cavallini o alla sua scuola.

Altri interventi vengono realizzati nel XV e XVI seco-lo mentre tra il 1665 ed il 1669, sotto il pontificato di Clemente IX, viene restaurato il portico a cui viene tolta una campata e mutato l’andamento della coper-tura da una a tre falde.

Nel corso dell’Uttocento, dopo una fase di decadenza e di degrado, la chiesa subisce considerevoli lavori di consolidamento e restauro (sotto i pontificati di Leone XII, Gregorio XVI e di Pio IX), durante i quali viene parzialmente ricostruita la parte termina-le della facciata, rialzata e rivestita poi con un into-naco a finta cortina (1824-25), vengono rinforzate le murature del fianco sinistro, consolidato il campani-le ed eseguite opere di risanamento dalla umidità.

Tra il 1923 ed il 1926, il monumento è oggetto di un radicale intervento di restauro ad opera della Soprintendenza ai Monumenti di Roma e sotto la direzione di Antonio Mufioz.

L’obiettivo dell’intervento è quello di restituire alla chiesa il proprio aspetto “medievale”, liberandola dalle aggiunte delle fasi storiche successive.

Vengono così riaperte le antiche finestre che davano luce alla navata centrale, riportato il pavimento alla sua quota originale, restaurata l’abside e rivestita di lastre marmoree; vengono anche rinvenuti numerosi frammenti di plutei e transenne che testimoniano l’esistenza di una antica schola cantorum attribuita al periodo di Gregorio IV (VIII-IX secolo), collocati poi da Mufioz sulle pareti interne della chiesa.

Altri interventi di carattere manutentivo alle coperture ed al ciborio e stonacature di murature, vengono realizzati dalla Soprintendenza ai Monumenti nel 1963. Poco prima dell’attentato era stato appena ultimato un intervento di rifacimento e restauro delle coper-ture della navata destra, che ha retto assai bene alla deflagrazione ed ha consentito di limitare considerevolmente i danni all’interno della chiesa.

Hospitality at Via del Velabro

Hospitality at Via del Velabro
Hospitality at Via del Velabro

We welcome as guests to the Crosier Generalate members of the Order, their families, and those recommended by them. To ask about visiting the Generalate, or to find out about vacancies, please send an email to  We have also prepared guides to touring Rome and touring the Vatican for our guests. These guides are available on our Resources page.

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bullet Map of the area around S. Giorgio and the Crosier Generalate
bullet Arriving from Fiumicino (leonardo di Vinci) Airport
bullet Arriving from Ciampino Airport
bullet Arriving by train
bullet Arriving by bus or Metro
bullet Arriving by car
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Arriving from Fiumicino (Leonardo di Vinci) Airport

We recommend the train for travel from the airport to the center of the city.

bullet At the airport, follow the signs for the Train Station. Take the train bound for Orte or for Fara Sabina (not for Termini, the main train station). You may purchase a ticket (€ 5) from the ticket booth, or from one of the automatic machines. Be certain to time stamp (convalidate) the ticket in one of the small yellow boxes near the entrance to the platform. This is important.
bullet Exit the train at Stazione Ostiense. You may travel to Via del Velabro 19 by either taxi or bus. Both are waiting in front of the station.
bullet If you choose to travel by bus, you will need to purchase your ticket (€ 1) in the station (e.g., where cigarettes are sold) or from a machine in the piazza in front of the station. We recommend Bus #95. You will find the starting point for this bus in the row of busses parked in the piazza in front of the station. If a #95 is not in the row, wait near the sign indicating 95. This is a starting point for the bus, so if one is there, board it and wait for it to leave.
bullet When you board the bus, be certain to convalidate your ticket in one of the yellow and grey machines near the doors of the bus. This is important.
bullet It is only a short ride on Bus 95 to the stop at Piazza della Bocca della Verità. This stop is marked on the map above. When you leave the bus, locate the large four-sided arch across the piazza. This is the Arco di Giano, and Via del Velabro, and our church and residence, are located just behind it. Use the stairs on the left as you face the arch.
We have also experienced good economical service from the Rome Airport Shuttle. You can find them on the web at horizontal rule

Arriving from Ciampino Airport

bullet There is a special bus service from Ciampino Airport to Termini, Rome’s main train station. You may purchase the tickets for this bus either at a counter outside the arrivals area at the airport, or during flights on RyanAir arriving at Ciampino.
bullet Once you arrive at Termini, follow the instructions below for using the #170 Bus to reach Via del Velabro.
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Arriving from Termini (the main train station)

You may travel either by taxi or by bus from the main train station.

bullet If you choose to travel by taxi, be certain to use one of the white metered taxis waiting in the taxi stand outside the main doors of the train station.
bullet If you choose to travel by bus, you will need to purchase your ticket before you board. They are available in the station, and in many small stands around the piazza in front of the station. We recommend Bus #170. When you leave the main doors of the station, you will see many busses lined up in rows to your left. As you pass the rows of busses, Bus #170 is one of the busses nearer to the station. The train station is a starting point for this bus, so when you find it, board and wait for it to leave.
bullet When you board the bus, be certain to convalidate your ticket in one of the yellow and gray machines near the doors of the bus. This is important.
bullet The bus will travel down Via Nazionale, and will then come to Piazza Venezia (which contains a large white monument affectionately know as “The Wedding Cake”). The third stop after leaving Piazza Venetia is Piazza della Bocca della Verità. As you exit the bus, turn around, and you will see the large four-sided Arco do Giano across the Piazza. Via del Velabro, and our church and residence, are located just behind it. Use the stairs on the left as you face the arch.
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Arriving by Bus or Metro

bullet Many bus lines pass Piazza della Bocca della Verità (marked #95 on the map above) or by the city buildings (stop: Petroselli, marked #30 on the map), including numbers 30, 44, 81, 95, 160, 170, and 628. When you exit your bus, walk to the Piazza della Bocca della Verità. If you stand facing the church with the tall tower (S. Maria in Cosmedin), with your back to the Tiber, and look to your left, you will see the large four-sided Arco do Giano across the Piazza. Via del Velabro, and our church and residence, are located just behind it. Use the stairs on the left as you face the arch.
bullet The nearest Metro stop is Circo Massimo. When you exit the Metro there, you must walk to the other end of Circo Massimo, towards the river. When you reach the other end, turn right, and you will be on Via S. Teodoro. Walk past S. Anastasia on your right to the next corner, which is Via del Velabro. Our residence is on the corner, at number 19.
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Arriving by Car

bullet You must approach Via del Velabro by Via S. Teodoro, which is a one-way street. Begin by driving along side the Campdoglio, towards S. Maria della Consolazione. The street jogs left and continues to the right past the Foro Romano. After another right curve, it becomes Via S. Teodoro, and runs along the Palatino towards Circo Massimo. You will soon find Via del Velabro on the right. There is plenty of parking on Via S. Teodoro, but none on Via del Velabro. Our residence is on the corner, at number 19.