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||photos of Kastellorizo, Greece
|Agios Giorgos Tou Pigadiou church iconostasis: Agios Giorgos (Saint George) slaying the dragon.
|This dramatic and highly graphic depiction of Saint George on horseback slaying a ferocious dragon against a golden sky is reminiscent of modern comic book styles. In the backgound, the rescued princess watches the scene in wonder or terrified anticipation in front of a hillside castle, acccording to various traditions either the city of Silene, Libya or Lydda, Palestine.
See also the icon of Saint George in Kastellorizo Archaeological Museum on gallery page 200.
Agios Georgios (Saint George whose name means "worker of the land", i.e. farmer), the patron saint of Greece, chivalry, England, Georgia and many other places, is undoubtedly Kastellorizo's favourite holy man and there are at least five churches and chapels dedicated to him on the tiny island, for example Agios Georgos tou Horafiou in the Horafia district, not to mention the chapel on the islet of Agios Georgios off the coast of Mandraki harbour (see photos of Mandraki on gallery pages 223 and 224).
According to Christian tradition, Saint George (circa 275/281 - 23 April 303) had Christian parents and became a tribune in the army of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. In 302 AD the emperor ordered the arrest of all Christian soldiers. During a confrontation with Diocletian, who knew George and his father personally, George asserted his Christian belief and refused to obey the emperor's edict to worship pagan gods. Despite Diocletian's offers of wealth and subsequently torture, George held steadfast to his faith and was executed by decapitation. His martyrdom is said to have inspired many Romans to convert to Christianity, and after George's body was returned to Lydda in Palestine his tomb became a place of pilgrimage.
The dragon Saint George slew has come to symbolically represent the "evil one" (Satan), paganism and by extension non Christian religions such as Islam. In the centuries of struggle between Christian and Muslim countries, this symbolism was constantly employed to encourage Christian resistance to Arab and Turkish military expansionism.
It is therefore not surprising that an isolated island such as Kastellorizo, uncomfortably much closer to its age-old foe Turkey than to any of its Greek neighbours, should have such a strong attachment to the symbolic strength of the Saint George legend.
Saint George in the armour of
a Roman soldier, on his white
horse, slays the dragon. The
top of his spear is a crucifux.
The dragon in this painting
looks much more formidable
than the worm in the icon in
(see gallery page 200).
The maiden and citadel in
the background of the painting
are part of the traditional
iconography of the legend
of Saint George.
|Maps, photos and articles: © David John.
Additional photos: © Konstanze Gundudis.
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