Sometimes when I need to cheer myself up or simply to focus on something outside my usual worries, I go on a DRAGON HUNT. No, I don’t have a secret stash of broadswords hidden in the back of my closet — I simply treat myself to a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of art.
Dragons, and dragon slayers, are all over Medieval and Renaissance art. There’s a particularly charming painting of St. George attributed to Carlo Crivelli. The saintly slayer has golden curls, lions on his armor and a red & white striped staff like a slender (and dangerous) barber’s pole. Of course, I focus on the angry kitten of a dragon at his feet. He’s all claws and teeth, but he’s already been subdued and, frankly, my friendly housecat can work up a more fearful demeanor.
The legend of St. George was likely a pagan story that was adopted, and adapted, by the Church as a clever promotional tool. There are many variations on this theme. At heart it’s about a Kingdom in a terrible territorial dispute with a dragon. In some classic versions, the dragon is a plague-bearing monster in others he simply holds the Kingdom hostage by not allowing anyone to leave or enter.
At first they appease the dragon by offering him sheep. Eventually he tires of mutton and they sacrifice children, one-by-one as dragon-food. The children are selected by lottery. George arrives when the King’s daughter has drawn the unlucky number. She’s alone on the shore of the lake waiting to be devoured as he rides by on his horse. Seeing a young damsel in distress he jumps in to rescue her. She demurs, as she is resigned to her fate, but George charges the dragon, subdues him and turns the princess’s girdle into a harness. She leads the now docile monster back to the Kingdom. St. George then promises to slay the dragon if the entire Kingdom converts to Christianity.
The story has so many wonderful classic fairytale/fable elements — a noble hero, an extortionist monster, even a princess and a happy ending. It was no doubt a great marketing tool for the Church.
Now, I think I’d better appease the housecat. He may not be a dragon, but when he wants his ears scratched I must sacrifice some keyboard time