Patron Saint Nearly Benched

Nothing stirs up English nationalism like football (in the English sense of the word). So the timing of progressive Church of England clerics couldn't have been worse when they proposed removing St. George from his role as England's patron saint just in time for World Cup fever.

Popular reaction was immensely negative—so the idea has gone nowhere. But they did have their reasons:

St. George first became popular with Brits during the Crusades when Christian armies captured Antioch from Muslim control in 1098. During the battle of Antioch, reports the Daily Mail, it was said that an apparition of George appeared to the Crusader army. The legend about his slaying a dragon cannot be traced any earlier than the late 1100s.

George was a Roman general and a martyr, possibly under Diocletian. But that is about all we know for sure.

His association with the Crusades and his military imagery would be off-putting to contemporary people and particularly to Great Britain's many Muslims.

Who was proposed to take George's place as patron saint?

St. Alban, the first English martyr. He was put to death about 305, also during Diocletian's reign. Alban was converted and baptized by a fugitive priest. When soldiers came looking for the priest, Alban disguised himself in the priest's cloak. Alban was killed, but he failed to save the priest, who was stoned to death a few days later.

Mission accomplished

The history of early California is intimately bound up with church history. The 21 Catholic missions (beginning with Mission San Diego de Alacalá in 1769) were cultural, economic, and transportation hubs that also transformed the lives of the native population.

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