This image of Saint George is from my father’s toy Sicilian cart from the 1950s. The hand-painted miniature is a prized family possession. You’ll see Saint George on many carts, especially the back support, because he protects the cart drivers and their horses. This weekend in the town of Piana degli Albanesi in Palermo province, they are celebrating their patron, San Giorgio.
The Feast of Saint George is observed on April 23. Today is a festive occasion with music and dance performances alongside kiosks offering typical foods and products of the region. Tomorrow, devotees will solemnly process their statue of the saint along with his sacred relics. The tradition is that the extremely heavy statue of the saint on horseback is danced through the streets by young men no older than 26. Together with them, the faithful sing, chant, and cry, expressing their devotion. This practice is followed by marching bands and drum cores playing more upbeat music. Once the statue arrives in front of the Church of San Giorgio, all present receive a blessing from the clergy.
San Giorgio is venerated throughout the Christian world. He is patron of countries such as England, Portugal, and Malta, and many cities in Spain and in Sicily; not only Piana degli Albanesi, but also Modica. He is the protector of soldiers, cavalry, chivalry, archers, farmers, field workers, Boy Scouts, butchers, horses, horse riders, saddles, and of sufferers from leprosy, plague and syphilis.