Monday, April 23, 2007

St. George at the Byzantine Museum

The 23rd of April is not always St. George's day. Oh no. The feast is such a big one, probably the biggest of those not immediately connected with Christ or the BVM. For this reason, if the 23rd of April falls in lent (and it does so more often than not), then the feast of St. George is celebrated on Easter Monday. This is because Lent is a time of solemnity and whatnot and we can't go feasting and celebrating in the middle of lent.

So, this year, St. George's day falls on the 23rd as it should. St. George is called the tropaiophoros, the bringer of triumph and is one of the earliest saints to be revered by the church. The whole story with the dragon comes from the levant (lebanon alone has a handful of locations with claims to be the spot where the dragon had been killed. The English crusaders (more about them some other day) saw the cult of the warrior saints (George and the many other literal soldiers of christ) and took his cult back to the British Isles with them. Together with the cult, they took back the red on white cross, known as St. George's cross. It is currently also displayed on the flag of Georgia.

Anyway, back to our picture of the day: the picture shows a piece of cloth with woven design measuring about 20 by 20cm (about 8x8 in inches). The design depicts a mounted saint dispatching a dragon - the chances are that it is St. George, although St. Demetrios is infrequently depicted in a very similar way. It's not clear whether there would have been space in the top right corner for St. George's little helper and the princess who gets saved. Both are iconographically late and are probably not there.

Last for today - the cloth is from the Egyptian collection at the BXM, hence we have it at all. The BXM's egyptian collection has a great number of both everyday items and ceremonial items of normally perishable material which has been saved thanks to the arid climate of the egyptian desert. That is why we have this cloth and quite a few other things, some of which may be featured in future pics of the day.

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