The Feast of Saint George has been celebrated in Vatican City as a public holiday every 23 April since 2013. But truly, this holiday dates back to ancient times and commemorates the martyrdom of a Christian soldier in A.D. 303.
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Saint George was an accomplished soldier of high rank in the Roman army of Emperor Diocletian. But when he refused to obey the order to execute Christians for their faith, or to recant his own and worship false gods, he was beheaded.
Saint George is also remembered for his generosity to the poor and his willingness to help the downtrodden and oppressed. The flag of Saint George, a red cross against a white field, later became the flag of England, where he is the patron saint. And other legends grew up about him, most notably that of his slaying a dragon in order to rescue a “maiden in distress.”
In Vatican City, special services are held for the Feast of Saint George at the Pauline Chapel, located within the Apostolic Palace. Roses have long been used to decorate the feast, and books are sometimes exchanged as presents since two famed authors, Shakespeare and Cervantes, died on 23 April.
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