George, Martyr and Patron Saint of England, may have been a soldier who suffered at Lydda in Palestine. He died circa A.D. 303, and has been known in this country since the 7th to 8th centuries, taking on new dimensions for England during the Crusades. A vision of SS. George and Demetrius appeared at the siege of Antioch on the first crusade. Later Richard I placed himself and his army under the protection of George, who became the special patron of soldiers. His patronage extends not only to soldiers, but also to knights, archers, armourers and husbandmen. In England over 160 ancient churches and several new ones are dedicated to him.
The first mention of Modbury Church having a connection with St. George is in the Cartulary of Modbury Priory when, within the dates 1163-71, Radulf de Valletort grants and confirms the charter of his father, Roger de Valletort, ‘concerning the church of the Blessed George the Martyr of Modbury and all things belonging to that church’.
Modbury Fair, previously known as St. George’s Fair, has been revived, but adheres to the old calendar and is held in the first week of May, whereas the Church celebrates its patronal festival on April 23rd.
The following story of St. George and the dragon became poplar in the West when The Golden Legend was translated and printed by Caxton:
The dragon, a local pest which terrorized the whole country, poisoned with its breath all who approached it. Every day it was appeased by an offering of two sheep, but when these grew scarce a human victim, chosen by lot, was to be sacrificed instead. The lot had fallen upon the king’s daughter, who went to her fate dressed as a bride. But George attacked the dragon, pierced it with his lance and led it captive with the girdle of the princess. George told the people not to be afraid: if they would believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized he would rid them of this monster. The king and people agreed: George killed the dragon and 15,000 men were baptized. George would take no reward, but asked the king to maintain churches and show compassion to the poor.