GEORGE GETS HIS GOAT

Today we will look at an interesting St. George variant — a 19th century example from Crete:

(Image: vrachassi.blogspot.com)

We immediately notice two unusual things about this icon.  First, George is holding a sword instead of the usual lance.  Second, his lance is shown broken in the dragon’s mouth, and the dragon has been decapitated by the sword.  All the other elements are common — the rearing horse, the rescued princess in the background, the angel presenting him with the leafy crown of victory, and the hand of God blessing out of heaven.

This icon is locally known as Ἁγιος Γεοργιος ὁ Τραγοπιαστες /Hagios Georgios ho Tragopiastes, meaning loosely “Holy George the Goat-getter.”  The story is that a man became ill, and promised St. George a good goat if the saint would cure him.  The man recovered, and a small kid from the herd was selected to be given to George when grown.  Unfortunately, that particular kid gradually grew to be the best of the herd, and when the time came to give it to George, the man thought another goat would do as well, so he picked a different (and less striking) goat as the donation to the saint.  But when he got to the church with it, he found the “best” goat already there with the priest, so St. George had gotten his goat, and the man lost the best of his herd to the saint.

It is worth looking at the dedicatory inscription at the base of this icon:


It reads:
ΔΕΗΣΙΣ ΤΟΥ ΔΟΥΛΟΥ ΣΟΥ ΙΩ ΚΟΥΤΑΤΤΑΚΙ ΣΙΜΒΙΑΣ …
Deisis Tou Doulou Sou Io. Koutattaki Simbias/Simvias
“Prayer/ Petition of Your Servant Io. Koutattaki Simvias …


… ΓΟΝΕΟΝ ΤΕΚΝΟΝ Κ[α]ι      ΑΔ[ελ] Φ[ων]      Α Ω Ν
Goneon, Teknon K[ai] Adelphon:   1855
… [and of his] Parents, Children, and Brothers.  1855

The spelling is a bit off — he uses o for ω,  but such things are common in Greek inscriptions, which are often phonetic.  Note the Greek letters used as numbers in the date.

Swords — in Greek-speaking-region icons — are generally found in icons of military saints fighting other men, and those icons appear to have influenced the painting of this George variant, though the victim here is a dragon, not a man.

 

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