The cult of Saint George met with considerable success and its fame spread throughout the Christian world. The saint became the emblem of a number of countries and regions of Europe, including England, Portugal, Catalonia and Aragon. A figure open to multiple interpretations, Saint George also became the patron saint of guilds (knights, armourers, saddle makers, field workers, etc.) and many types of orders, as well as hundreds of European cities that placed themselves under his protection. This resulted in a wide range of representations, found today in the largest European collections, but also many depictions in popular art that today constitute a less permanent heritage – a topic also explored in the current exhibition.

Saint George and the dragon constitute two fictions that intersect in the moment of combat. This is what has made it possible, down through the ages, for the figures to be rendered without the need to reference a single fixed image. The motif of Saint George and the dragon thus continued to expand and evolve, reflecting not only its power to embody Christian thought, but also a wide range of interpretations by artists and others. 

This volume includes a selection of the many sculptures, paintings, drawings, illuminations and icons that have been used to depict the Saint in various ways. It explores the ways in which “Saint George and the dragon” appears to us to as the embodiment of man’s battles against a host of hostile forces, but also, and perhaps more importantly, man’s struggle with himself in his quest to assert his destiny.

Laurent Busine is director of the Musée des Arts Contemporains (MAC’s) of the French Community of Belgium in Grand-Hornu.

MAC’s – Musée des Arts contemporains, Grand-Hornu. Opens 17 October 2015 (as part of Mons being named 2015 European Capital of Culture)

Through texts and abundant illustrations, this exhibition catalogue allows the reader to explore the diverse iconographic world of Saint George.