Saint George and his chains – in Cairo
You all know about Saint George and the Dragon and if you’re English, you’ll be aware that he is the patron saint of England. But there’s a lot more to this saint who was venerated in the Middle Ages. Reputedly a Greek who served in the Roman army during the reign of the emperor Diocletian – he got into trouble when he decided to convert to Christianity. The reason being that the emperor had been convinced to launch an all out purge of Christians leaving George on the wrong side of the political fence. But he refused to change his mind and suffered martyrdom.
In the 12th century, the saint’s remains were brought to Egypt and the Convent of Saint George is still one of the key places of worship for Coptic Christians in Cairo. The faithful are invited to put the collar round their neck and wind the chain round their body. This ritual goes back to the Byzantine era and is said to leave the pilgrim in a state of grace.
According to some sources, the chain was also used in the past to chain those suffering from mental illness, anxiety and hysteria. Well, I suffer from none of those things but did hold the chains during my visit to Cairo in 2009.