April 25, 2012

Saint George the Trophy-Bearer in Cyprus

Saint George is reverenced in Cyprus even by the Turks. It is characteristically mentioned that during the Ottoman period, the Ottoman authorities had some laxity measures concerning the building of churches dedicated to St. George, only surpassed in number by the Virgin Mary. More than 350 monasteries, churches and chapels are dedicated to St. George in Cyprus. Nine Villages are named after him, as well as two islands, while seven other settlements named after the Great Martyr no longer exist. Saints from Cyprus had the name George, and many residents today are named either George or Georgia. Cypriot folklore is filled with references to St. George, such as in songs, proverbs, legends and traditions.

In Cyprus, St George is patron saint of epilepsy, a protector of eyes, he is considered an assistant of small children who are slow to take their first steps and a supporter of single girls. Riding on his horse, he wanders night and day in different parts of the island to satisfy the requests of the pious faithful. Many see him move around at night in the streets and alleys of the village or city, and many hear the horse galloping, while chasing a terrible evil, such as the "plague" and cholera, and he runs to stand by unhappy people or those in pain. In several areas, the imagination of people wants to see the "horse prints" of the horse of St. George imprinted on the ground, even if the area is rocky and barren. They even claim to have their own cave and fountain near them where St. George killed the dragon and freed the princess, as the Cypriots want him to be their own saint, interwoven with their daily life.

Details about these traditions can be read in Kosta Papageorgiou's book titled "Saint George the Trophy-Bearer in Cyprus" ("Ο Άγιος Γεώργιος ο Τροπαιοφόρος στην Κύπρο"), which contains over 200 photos.