St George, Perry Hill

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Above: Close-up of the highly original weathervane on the tall spire of the  church.

“St George and the Dragon”

The 23rd April is St George’s Day. It is not hard to find visual representations of St George in London. Several churches are dedicated to St George. Many pubs, often just called ‘The George’ started as ‘St George and the Dragon’.

To celebrate the day we look at the weathervane high up on top of the parish church of St George, Perry Hill. The church was first built in Victorian times on low-lying ground to the south of Catford. It was built 1878-80 in grand style using Kentish ragstone for the exterior. Due to structural problems the church was closed for worship and was eventually pulled down in 1999 to make way for a new building which opened in 2005. The architects were Thomas Ford & Partners. One of the finest features of the old building was a huge rose-window which was carefully removed and incorporated into the new red-brick church. The rest of the building, including a tower and spire, are all of modern construction.

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Above: The Victorian ‘rose’ window now incorporated into the new church.

High on the top of the new spire, a fine representation of St George slaying a dragon has been newly made for the new church. You need quite a long zoom lens to capture it – due to its height – but it is well worth the effort.

St George wasn’t English. He may never have even existed, but if he did he was probably born in what is now modern-day Turkey, to a Turkish father serving in the Roman army and a Palestinian mother some time in the third century. He almost certainly didn’t slay a dragon.

Richard the Lionheart adopted St George as his protector after visiting his shrine while on the Crusades – his troops said a vision of the saint inspired them to victory.

The legend of St George and the Dragon is said to have been brought back to England by the Crusaders. Eastern Orthodox images of Saint George slaying a dragon often include a young maiden looking on. The usual interpretation is that the dragon represents Satan and the young maiden is Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian.

Today, only a few people take any interest in St George. Some know that his saint’s day is 23 April but most people associate the day with also being Shakespeare’s birthday. By chance he died on that same day as well.

William Shakespeare knew about the saint who was very much associated with England in Tudor times. In the lines of Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III, written in 1598, King Henry V ends his famous speech in the play with the rallying cry . . .

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’


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