St George’s Cross

St George’s Cross


Saint George’s Cross is a red cross on a
white background. It was originally the ensign of the Republic of Genoa and was
used successively by crusaders and then adopted by England. It became associated
with Saint George, the “warrior saint” often depicted as a crusader from the
late Middle Ages. The cross has appeared on many flags,
emblems, standards, and coats of arms, such as that of the Swabian League in
the pre-Reformation Holy Roman Empire, and it was introduced as the emblem of
several countries and cities which have or had St George as a patron saint,
notably the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of England, and
Georgia in the Caucasus. The cross is also found, for various
reasons, on the provincial flags of Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel and
Barcelona. It is used extensively across Northern Italy and is the symbol of
Bologna, Padua, Genoa, Reggio Emilia, Mantua, Vercelli, Alessandria, and most
notably of Milan, where it is often called the “Cross of St Ambrose”.
Origins and medieval use Saint George became widely venerated as
a “warrior saint” during the Third Crusade. There was a legend that he had
miraculously assisted Godfrey of Bouillon; also that Richard the
Lionheart had placed himself under his protection.
According to legend, the crusaders received miraculous help at the siege of
Antioch on 28 June 1098 from a great army on white horses, clothed in white
and bearing white banners, led by St George, St Demetrius, and St Mercurius.
However, there was no association of the red cross with St George before the end
of the crusades. The red cross in particular was
associated with the Knights Templar, from the time of the Second Crusade, but
in 1188 red and white crosses were chosen to identify the French and
English troops in the “Kings’ Crusade” of Philip II of France and Henry II of
England, respectively. Together with the Jerusalem Cross, the plain “George’s
Cross” became a recognizable symbol of the crusader from about 1190, and in the
13th century it came to be used as a standard or emblem by numerous leaders
or polities who wanted to associate themselves with the crusades. The
red-on-white combination was chosen by Genoa and Aragon, among others. Saint
George was depicted as a crusader knight during this time, but the red cross had
no particular association with him. A crusader-era fresco in the crypt of
Trani cathedral shows Saint George wearing a white cross on a red surcoat.
The white-on-red version was chosen as the Reichsbanner by the German crusaders
in the 12th century, and Emperor Frederick II used it in his European
campaigns of the 1250s after he had returned from the crusades. It continued
to be used as the Reichssturmfahne of the Holy Roman Empire, eventually giving
rise to the flag of Savoy and the present-day flags of Switzerland and
Denmark). The association with the Saint of the
red-on-white cross probably arises in Genoa, which had adopted these tinctures
for their flag and George as their patron saint in the 12th century. A
vexillum beati Georgii is mentioned in the Genovese annals for the year 1198,
referring to a red flag with a depiction of St George and the dragon. An
illumination of this flag is shown in the annals for the year 1227. The
Genoese flag with the red cross was used alongside this “George’s flag”, from at
least 1218, and was known as the insignia cruxata comunis Janue. The flag
showing the saint himself was the city’s principal war flag, but the flag showing
the plain cross was used alongside it in the 1240s.
The cross ceased to be a symbol directly associated with the “taking of the
cross”, the resolve to fight in a crusade, after the failure of the
crusades in the 14th century. With the development of systematic heraldry,
there was great demand for variations of the cross symbol and associated
terminology. Juliana Berners reports that there were Crossis innumerabull
born dayli. The term “St. George’s cross” was at first associated with any
plain Greek cross touching the edges of the field. Thomas Fuller in 1647 spoke
of “the plain or S. George’s cross” as “the mother of all the others”. It
became fashionable in the 15th century, with the full development of classical
heraldry, to attribute fictional coats of arms to saints and other historical
characters from the pre-heraldic ages. The widespread attribution to Saint
George of the red cross on a white field in western art dates to the early 15th
century, but the association may have been established by the early 14th
century of the red cross used as insignia cruxata comunis by the city of
Genoa and its patron saint George. In any case, Edward III of England chose
Saint George as the patron saint of his Order of the Garter in 1348, and also
took to using a red-on-white cross in the hoist of his Royal Standard.
England=Origin=
There used to be a claim that the red cross worn as an emblem was brought to
England as early as the 1190s by Richard the Lionheart, but this cannot be
substantiated. The red cross was introduced to England by the late 13th
century, but not as a flag, and not at the time associated with Saint George.
It was worn by English soldiers as an identification from the early years of
the reign of Edward I, and perhaps originated a few years earlier, in the
Second Barons’ War. Saint George rose to the position of
“patron saint of England” in a process beginning in 1348 with the foundation of
the Order of the Garter and culminating with the abolition of all saint’s
banners except for the St. George’s banner in 1552. From 1348 and throughout
the 15th century, the St. George’s Cross was shown in the hoist of the Royal
Standards of the Plantagenet kings of England.
=Modern use==England=
A combined British flag was created in 1606 by combining St George’s Cross with
the St Andrew’s Cross. The flag was initially for maritime display, later
restricted to the King’s ships. Afterwards, the St George flag remained
the flag of England for other purposes until the Acts of Union 1707. At the
union, the first Union Flag became official for all purposes in the new
Kingdom of Great Britain. From this time, the St. Georges Cross came to be
seen as a symbol of England and Wales when used alongside symbols for Scotland
or Ireland; so in the flags of the Commonwealth of England during 1649 to
1660. The flag of St George is also the rank
flag of an Admiral in the Royal Navy, and civilian craft are forbidden to fly
it. However, ships which took part in the rescue operation at Dunkirk during
World War II are allowed to fly it as a jack.
Churches belonging to the Church of England may fly the St George’s Cross.
The correct way for the church to fly the St George’s cross is with the arms
of the diocese in the upper left-hand corner of the flag.
The flag of St George has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity since the late
20th century, partly due to football-inspired nationalism, and also
in response to the devolution movements in Scotland and Wales.
During the 2010 World Cup, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament
that the flag would fly above his official residence at “no extra cost to
the tax payer” while England played in the contest.
=Derived usage=Guernsey was permitted to use the St
George’s Cross as its state flag between 1936 and 1985.
The coat of arms of Montreal, first used in 1833, had a Saint Patrick’s cross
with the floral emblems of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France in its
four quarters. The cross was changed to a Saint George’s Cross in 1938,
representing England’s dominating influence over Canada, and a city flag
in the form of the arms was adopted the following year. The city of Nanaimo in
British Columbia also uses a Saint George’s Cross on its flag and arms with
a ship and pieces of coal, its former main export.
Three Canadian provinces use the Saint George’s Cross on their coats of arms:
Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario, again reflecting England’s influence in
Canada. The state badge of the Australian state
of New South Wales features St. George’s cross with a golden lion passant
guardant in the centre of the cross and a golden eight pointed star on each of
the cross limbs. Georgia
St George is the patron saint of the nation of Georgia, and the St. George
flag was supposedly used in the 5th century by Georgian king Vakhtang
Gorgasali. In the 13th century, Queen Tamar of Georgia used the St. George
flag during her campaign against Seljuk Turks. The four Jerusalem crosses were
later added by King George V of Georgia, who drove out the Mongols from Georgia
in 1334. The flag fell out during the Russian annexation of Georgia and
abolition of the Georgian monarchy. However, the flag was revived by the
Georgian patriotic movement in the 1990s. A majority of Georgians supported
the restoration of the medieval flag of Georgia, including the influential
Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The
flag was finally adopted by the Georgian parliament on January 14, 2004. It was
formally endorsed by a presidential decree signed by Mikheil Saakashvili on
January 25, following his election as President of Georgia.
Sardinia The flag of the Italian Region of
Sardinia is popularly known as the Four Moors flag, and consists of a red cross
on a white background with a maure in each quarter. The “four moors” design
appears to date to the late 13th century, in origin associated with the
Crown of Aragon. It became associated with the Aragonese Kingdom of Sardinia
during the 14th century. Sweden
In Sweden, the term “Saint George’s cross” sometimes refers to the Cross
pattée used by Swedish Freemasons. Notes
External links Flag of England at FOTW
Banners of English saints at FOTW

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