Q. The legends surrounding St. George (feast day April 23) seem rather extravagant. What do we actually know about this popular hero of the faith?
A. We know that he was a fourth-century martyr, but very little beyond that is known with certainty. Ancient tradition holds that he was a Roman soldier tortured and beheaded for his faith in the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in a.d. 303.
Devotion to St. George eventually spread throughout Europe and the Middle East, and the resulting legends were indeed extravagant. Today we must still affirm the famous decree De Libris Recipiendis, attributed to Pope Gelasius in the year 495, which included him among the saints “who are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.”