How are St George’s, Shakespeare and World Book Day all linked?

st george sant jordi
st george sant jordi

FOR Spain and England, April 23 is one for the diaries. 

It marks the celebration of St George’s day, the death of both countries’ most venerated writers and World Book Day all of which are linked in a surprising series of events. 

Saint George is the patron saint of England, Aragon and Catalunya. 

For both regions, St George is a representation of the nation, a symbol of each of their cultures and their most patriotic day and April 23 is remembered as the day he died a martyr at the hands of the Romans. 

Despite sharing the same patron saint, the legend differs in the details. 

Albrecht Dürer, Cc0, Via Wikimedia Commons
St George slaying the dragon. Credit Wikipedia

In both cases St George is credited with the slaying of the dragon however there is a discrepancy in where this took place. 

For the English the bloody battle took place on the so-called Dragon Hill in Uffington Berkshire whereas for the Catalonians the dragon was slain in Montblanc, Tarragona.   

In both countries national flags, the red cross and roses are used to celebrate the occasion. 

A rose is often pinned to a lapel in England, the flower is considered a national symbol due to the War of the Roses and is therefore worn on St George’s day as a patriotic gesture. 

In Catalunya however roses can be seen covering balconies and being handed to passers-by, for Catalonians a rose is thought to have grown in the spot where the blood of the slain dragon fell. 

Casa Battlo Sant Jordi
Gaudi’s Casa Battlo was designed with St George as inspiration and is decorated with roses for Sant Jordi

While the dragon’s blood produced a flower in Catalunya, in England it is thought to have a produced a dead patch of grass on the top of Dragon Hill.

In Catalunya another common sight on St Georges day is book stalls, often selling Catalan based reads. 

The tradition of selling books at the Sant Jordi parades and fairs stems from 1929 when booksellers took advantage of the crowd influx to promote local literature.  

Due to the incredible increase in sales, April 23 was then established as book day in Catalunya.

Santjordi1 1 From Barcelona Ayuntamiento
Book stalls and roses in Catalunya on St George’s Day. Credit Ayuntament Barcelona

It is credited with providing a huge boost in the exposure of Catalanonian literature. 

So great was the success and impact of Catalonian book day, in 1995 UNESCO established April 23 as World book day. 

Coincidentally April 23 is also the supposed date on which Cervantes and Shakespeare died, both in 1616. 

Shakespeare And Cervantes
Cervantes and Shakespeare

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