St George and the Dragon, Southwark Cathedral

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Above: Beautiful painted stone plaque to be seen in Southwark Cathedral.

Have a Great St George’s Day !

‘Now you are being patriotic’ I hear you say. Well perhaps I am but the theme of St George and the Dragon is always around us in the City of London and in Inner London as well.

We all know the unlikely story of a knight slaying the mythical beast but, for Londoners and those interested in London, the symbol is there wherever you look. For a start, the flag of St George is a red cross on a white background which is often seen flying in London and all over England. That emblem is also the symbol of the City of London, not as a flag but as a red cross on a white shield. One simple way of knowing if you are in the City of London is to look at the lamp-posts and if they carry that shield then you are still within its boundary.

As you approach the City of London, along any road, the boundary is marked by the figure of a dragon holding a similar shield. There is usually one on either side of the roadway.

The Coat of Arms of the City of London is the same shield, yet again, with what in heraldry are called ‘supporters’. They support the shield on either side and, they are two dragons, each with the red cross of St George also shown on their wings.

Well, if you are getting bored with those emblems in the City, what about all the pubs in London – and indeed across England – that are called ‘The George’. This reference needs to be considered with caution because we have also had kings called George – four of them in fact. This means that some pubs called ‘The George’ are named after one of the kings – like George VI.

Pubs bearing this name which date from before the 18th century are almost certainly named after the Patron Saint of England and, although they may well be called simply ‘The George’ today, they were often once known as ‘St George and the Dragon’. A well-known pub in Borough High Street started life as the George Inn and there are two attractive overhanging sign-boards, each painted by a different artist, depicting the knight slaying the dragon to be seen in the large forecourt today.

This finally brings us to the photograph. It is part of a War Memorial, on an inside wall of Southwark Cathedral, commemorating those who lost their lives during the Great War. It is one of the most detailed and ornate depictions of St George and the Dragon to be seen anywhere in London. As such, it is an object of great beauty.

Oh, and by the way, its also William Shakespeare’s birthday but that’s nothing to do with the theme of this article.


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