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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

St George’s Day

One of my most unrelenting (and occasionally nutty) eurosceptic visitors popped up the other day reckoning that I must hate St George’s Day because I’m pro-EU (yes, he’s one of those who rarely reads/understands what I write, so has me down as a slavering, unthinking, traitorous Europhile, rather than someone who’s, you know, thought about it quite a lot and can see all the problems).

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. St George is, after all, one of the ultimate symbols of Britain’s pan-European ties.

He was a Roman soldier (much like St Alban, in fact, the chap some have suggested would be more appropriate as England’s patron saint), so part of that vast organisation which united Europe from the Forth to the Nile, Portugal to the Caspian Sea – and which has helped shape the look and feel of Europe’s geography and culture for so much of the last 2000 years.

He was born in Anatolia, modern Turkey (although probably more like present day Armenia – with his mother having been born in what is now Israel/Palestine), showing how the links between Turkey and Europe have stretched back for millennia – and is the patron saint of Istanbul as well as of England.

He is venerated as an Islamic martyr as well as a Christian one, showing once again the links between the two faiths that so many on both sides seem to have forgotten in recent years (but hey, if you believe in a great big bearded fairy living up in the clouds, don’t expect too much rationality, eh?)

He remains the most venerated saint in the Orthodox Church, so popular on Europe’s eastern fringes – the dominant religion in, for example, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Greece, the former Yugoslavia, Cyprus, Georgia and Russia.

No doubt due to this Orthodox connection, he is also the patron saint of Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Moscow (Istanbul, of course, was formerly Constantinople / Byzantium, the seat of the Orthodox Church after the great schism, hence George’s patronage there – Constantine the Great, the founder of Constantinople / Istanbul, having been crowned Roman Emperor in the pleasingly English city of York in July 306 AD).

George is also patron saint of Catalonia – a land originally colonised by the ancient Greeks, then taken over by the Carthaginians, then the Romans, then the Visigoths, then the Moors, then the Franks and, after a period under the rule of Aragon (of English king Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine of Aragon fame), Spain. A near perfect encapsulation of the various waves of European civilisations.

Then there’s Portugal, another country with George as Patron (I won’t bother going into detail about Canada and Ethiopia, don’t worry) – and one of the few European countries with whom England has never (officially) gone to war. Portugal’s history is similar to that of Catalonia – only with the added excitement of trade with the Phoenicians (much like pre-Roman Devon and Cornwall) and a sizeable Celtic community – just like the Celtic fringe of the British isles. They may have been conquered by the Moors while England was being conquered by the Vikings, but otherwise the two nations’ histories are remarkably similar – invasions, consolidation, exploration, innovation, empire and decline.

Saint George certainly never killed a dragon, and there is little historical evidence to show that he actually existed.

He is, however, a perfect symbol for both England and Europe – an amalgamation of numerous other myths that epitomise an appeal to civility, chivalry and toleration, yet with a militaristic edge in the dragon legend that is not only perfect for a continent which has seen as many wars as Europe has done, but also warns “if you attack us, we will fight”. His historical nature is pretty doubtful, yet – much like England has King Arthur, the Anglo-Saxon settlement, the Norman Yoke, Robin Hood and that nonsensical “1000 years of history” – the lack of historicity merely makes him that much more powerful as a symbol, as he can become anything we want him to be. He is revered across Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, yet – like so much European culture – originated from the Middle East, demonstrating once again that the diversity of this continent is never so great as people may think.

In other words, as the European Union hunts around for a new direction and a new unifying ideal, it could really look to no better a symbol than Saint George, a truly pan-European figure – and one well worthy of a drink or two in the pub tonight, whether he existed or not.

(Want more Saint George? Try Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopaedia)

Update: Forgot to mention, today is also William Shakespeare’s reputed birthday, and likewise the date recorded for his death. This most influential, most English of poets – as we all know – drew heavily on continental European subjects and history for his many plays, from Romeo and Juliet to Othello, The Merchant of Venice to Macbeth. But he also died on the very same day – 23rd April 1616 – as that other great 16th/17th century writer, Miguel Cervantes, the author of the wonderful Don Quixote – one of the founding texts of modern western civilisation, and another fine example of something typically European: the futile search for something better.

Shakespeare, Cervantes and Saint George – all united by 23rd April, all quite gloriously European.

20 Comments

  1. I am the visitor the host mentions.

    Well first off I`m not going to read his blog because he just gets foul mouthed if he starts losing a debate. So its a waste of time coming here for an intellectual discussion.

    Still, it made him mention St George , not that I`m going to read the bigots ramblings.

  2. I have to say, this article had me smirking the entire way through.

    Robin, if you'd taken the time to read some of Nosemonkey's writings, you would understand that he DOES analyse the negatives of the EU, and the positives. Nobody here "hates" England. We are not mindless idiots ignoring the corruption scandals, indeed only several posts back Nosemonkey questioned whether the EU was still a force for good.

    In an earlier comment I stereotyped you as a sun reader, which was unfair. However I honestly have no idea where you managed to draw the, non- patriotic, freedom hating archetype that many in the BNP and UKIP project.

  3. Robin : In addition, after re-reading your post today, your probably more like a News of the World man.

  4. Epi,

    I dont come to this site except in April to annoy Nosemonkey, so I`m going to miss all his posts.

    I dont understand your last paragraph. Are you saying UKIP are not patriotic ?

    You and Nosemonkey stereotype me.Fair enough, I stereotype you, which if experience is to go by,it`s near the truth.

    You would be surprised what I do read. I recommend "Whats Left " by Nick Cohen. I¬m doing so now, and it gels with me well. It shows why liberals lose support and we turn to the right.

  5. Robin, I suggested that UKIP and the BNP project the image of pro-Europeans as England Hating Scum.

  6. Epi,

    In my experience that would generally be true.

    Even the Guardian today has a piece on it.

    Nosemonkey didn`t mention St. George last year did he ?

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they argue with you, then you`ve won "—Ghandi, I think.

  7. The best Saint George piece I've seen today was in the Telegraph – or on the website, at least.

    But Robin, old boy, you seem not to have paid attention to your Monty Python (slightly paraphrased) – this [as with most occasions you crop up here] isn't an argument, it's just contradiction… An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition… Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

    Sound familiar?

  8. Nosemonkey,

    No it isn`t.

  9. Stop making out that you want an argument on anything. You just want to pontificate about a subject and get nasty if you`re shown up.

    Typical of your sort.

  10. Really? A blogger wants to pontificate? It's the insight of the week…

    And you're right – I don't want an argument – I want a debate. Point, counterpoint – exchange of views based on reasoned theories backed up with examples. There are countless examples of me engaging in such online debates both on thi site and innumerable others – and practically no examples of me launching into personal abuse or wild generalisations with no provocation.

    So how come you're pretty much the only person who seems to have such an opinion? At the risk of sounding as arrogant as you think me, this little lot speaks for itself, surely? Not to mention the reputation I seem to have acquired in my 3+ years in the world of blogs for being vehemently nonpartisan.

    Oh, wait – I know. It's because, by your own admission, you don't read anything I write – you merely label me as someone who's pro-EU, and therefore shut your ears/eyes to anything I have to say. Your loss – had you bothered reading some of the posts on this site, rather than spending all your time in EU Referendum's comment boards (usually under another name, if I recall), you might have learned something by now.

  11. The EU already has a saint. Jude.

  12. Pingback: Dragon Slaying « From The Dustbin of History

  13. Nosemonkey,

    Got rattled did you ?
    If you want debate I can give you one but you dont. I`m not going to read your post because of that.
    If you go to the EU Referendum site why dont you put some posts there ? It`s because you`re afraid of being shot down in flames.Same with Margot`s website.

    What other name do I post under at EU Referendum website then ?
    I don`t need to learn about arrogance and foull language from you, you`re not even very good at it. Reputation from who ? Your own buddies, so what ?
    Stick to this place and others where you feel safe.

  14. Interesting read on St. George Nosemonkey, thanks.

    PS. What happened to the quotes that used to be in your site?

  15. Anton – I had to do a bit of a redesign to clean up some code (still not quite right), and it would have been far too fiddly and time-consuming to re-do the quotes again. I might add them again at some point, but only if I can find a simpler solution, most likely.

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