Question 5 in Saint George’s week: Why didn’t Saint George just use his fists to slay the dragon? This sculpture, part of the Liberty monument on Gellért Hill outside Budapest (Hungary), refers to Saint George’s legendary fight with the dragon, but sculptor Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl clearly gives it a different twist.
The legend of Saint George’s fight with a dragon is usually situated near Silene in Libya, were he saved the king’s daughter from being offered to a venom-spewing dragon. First, Saint George attacked the dragon on horseback with his spear, which is the way he is often depicted. But that did not work, the hard scales of the monster broke the spear into thousands of pieces. He was flung from his horse but fortunately he rolled under an enchanted orange tree against which poison could not prevail, so that the venomous dragon was unable to hurt him.
Within a few minutes Saint George had recovered his strength and was able to fight again. He then rushed, with his sword in his hand, at the dragon and pierced it under the wing where there were no scales, so that it fell dead at his feet. But who knows, maybe this didn’t work either and the saint had to continue the fight with his bare fists.
Via the Crusades, Saint George became the emblem of the Christian triumph over evil forces. Or in this case: the victory of the Soviet troops over the Nazi forces, as this statue was erected in 1947 in the period of communist control. After 1989, when Hungary broke free from Soviet domination, the inscription became dedicated to “all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary". Let’s hope the statue’s message can be reframed again, now freedom in Hungary is again threatened these days.
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