St. George and the Dragon

St. George was an inspiring martyr.  The story of his encounter with the dragon is a legend that springs to life in the middle ages.

The first painting is by Peter Paul Rubens, the second by Raphael.


Potential symbolic representations:

  • The red cape represents martyrdom
  • The white horse represents the courage and bravery with which he approached the dangers of martyrdom
  • Slaying the dragon meant overcoming “loving not his life all the way to death”
  • Rescuing the princess represented the winning over of Diocletian’s wife
  • It has also been suggested that the woman in Ruben’s painting represents the church

Note that in both paintings have the horse looking at the reader, as if to make the horse the central character.  As a representative of the virtue of courage and faithfulness, it is as if the horse is looking at the reader asking “will you be brave too? Will you ride me into battle?”

Rubens never sold this painting. He kept it with him until his death.


Raphael painted St. George slaying the dragon and included the word “Honi”, the first word in the phrase of the of the Order of the Garter (of which St. George was the patron saint).  Though there is disagreement on how to translate the old french expression “honi soit qui mal y pense” (see wikipedia), the most inspiring translation is “Evil be to him who him who evil thinks.”  The word Honi is very difficult to see, it is on the garter wrapped on his leg below St. George’s knee.

The emblem of the order of the garter has the entire phrase.

There is a great breakdown of the pieces of the Raphael painting (with close ups) here.


Other Interesting Facts

Bayden-Powell of the boy scouts had St. George as the patron saint

St. George is typical of what a Scout should be.  He epitomized the qualities of selflessness and both moral and physical courage which Baden-Powell saw as being among the aims of Scouting.

Other Resources