Walking down the streets of Old Town in Bethlehem…
It’s easy to get lost. Well, it’s not a maze but – as in any other Arabic town – it’s full of stairs, narrow passages and winding streets.
When I came there for the first time, I was astonished by two things. It’s empty. Maybe one small restaurant. One little workshop with wooden souvenirs. Sometimes you can meet an old man passing slowly before reaching the market – a bit more crowded. Many houses in Bethlehem are marked – some of them with a cross, others with basmala (Muslim expression meaning “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”. But you can also see an icon of a knight on a horse with a dragon at his foot. Who is that?
St. George, martyr
According to most of the sources comes from Cappadocia (today in Turkey). Born in a Christian family in… III CE and when he was a child, his family moved to Palestinian region (therefore in the Roman Empire). After joining Roman legions he became a victim himself because of the persecution of Christians in the Empire. george was Christian and he didn’t want to renounce his faith. He was convicted to tortures and death. Since that time, he’s been remembered in both Eastern and Western Christian tradition, he became the patron of many brotherhoods, congregations and even countries, Palestine included.
Ok, but where is the dragon?
There is also a legend about the life of St. George and his battle with a dragon. The beast had its nest on a lake which was the only source of water for a town of Silene. When the people wanted to draw the water, they had to offer the dragon a sheep – and if they hadn’t find one – the dragon was also happy to devour one of a girls from the town. One day, the bad fate picked out a beautiful princess and despite requests of her family, she was meant to become a victim of the dragon. George decided to try to battle the dragon. He reached the lake, crossed himself and.. won. The town was astonished by his faith and decided to convert to Christianity. The king gave St. George a lot of gifts but he distributed all of them among the people and decided to become a monk. This is how he became a symbol of courage and pure intentions. He’s often presented as a knight and because he was living in the region of Palestine, he’s become a part of tradition here. He’s everywhere! On churches, above doors, on icons and… in the legend.
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