Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Veneration of Saint George in the Founding of the Russian State

Russian Coat of Arms

Saint George was the patron saint and protector of several of the great builders of the Russian state. Saint Vladimir’s son, Yaroslav the Wise (in holy Baptism George), advanced the veneration of the Saint in the Russian Church. He built the city of Yuriev [i.e., “of Yurii.” “Yurii” is the diminutive of “George”, as “Ivan” is of “John”]. He also founded the Yuriev Monastery at Novgorod, and he built the Church of Saint George the Trophy-Bearer at Kiev.

The day of the consecration of Saint George’s Church in Kiev, 26 November 1051, by Saint Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, has entered into the liturgical treasury of the Church as a special church feast day. Yuriev Day is beloved by the Russian people as an “autumn Feast of Saint George.”

The name of Saint George was also borne by the founder of Moscow, Yurii Dolgoruky (+ 1157), who was the builder of many churches dedicated to Saint George, and the builder of the city of Yuriev-Polsk. In the year 1238 the heroic fight of the Russian nation against the Mongol Horde was led by the Great Prince Yurii (George) Vsevolodovich of Vladimir (February 4), who fell at the Battle at the Sita River. His memory, like that of Igor the Brave, and defender of his land, was celebrated in Russian spiritual poems and ballads.

The first Great Prince of Moscow, when Moscow had become the center of the Russian Land, was Yurii Danilovich (+ 1325), the son of Saint Daniel of Moscow, and grandson of Saint Alexander Nevsky. From that time Saint George the Trophy-Bearer, depicted as a horseman slaying the serpent, appeared on Moscow’s coat of arms, and became an emblem of the Russian state. This has strengthened Russia’s connections with Christian nations, and especially with Iberia (Georgia, "the Land of Saint George"). During Soviet times the emblem of Saint George was replaced with the hammer and sickle.

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