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January 17, 2018

Saint George of the Foustanella Proclaimed Patron Saint of the Greek Presidential Guard

In Athens today, 17 January 2018, at the facilities of the Presidential Guard next to the Presidential Mansion, Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and All Greece presided over the first celebration there of Saint George of the Foustanella, who was proclaimed the patron saint of the Presidential Guard.

Saint George, who was martyred by the Turks for not converting to Islam on 17 January 1838 by hanging in Ioannina, and subsequently canonized by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on 19 September 1839, was chosen as their patron saint because traditionally in iconography he is depicted wearing the traditional foustanella, like the Evzones of the Presidential Guard. The foustanella (φουστανέλα) of the Evzones is a cotton kilt made from 30 meters (98 feet) of white cloth, with supposedly 400 pleats (πιέτες) representing the 400 years of Ottoman occupation. As the Archbishop said during the ceremony: "The foustanella is a symbol of the Greek struggle and the acquisition of freedom."

The Presidential Guard is a purely ceremonial unit, charged with providing permanent ceremonial guard detachments of two Evzones each for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the entrance to the Presidential Mansion, and one Evzone for its own barracks, the Georgios Tzavellas Camp, situated directly in front of the Presidential Mansion. The Guard takes precedence in all military parades. All Evzones are volunteers drawn from the Hellenic Army's Infantry Corps. Prospective Evzones are initially identified at the Infantry Recruit Training Centres during Basic Training; there is a minimum height requirement of 1.87 m (6' 1") to join.

The Archbishop consecrated the Shrine of Saint George of the Foustanella, in the presence of the President of Greece Prokopios Pavlopoulos. The President of Greece said among other things: "The Holy New Martyr George was martyred precisely because he did not accept to change his belief, he refused to renounce his faith. This for the Presidential Guard is of paramount importance because it shows what the Presidential Guard has always done since it was established."