So our tour guide leads us through a series of panels depicting familiar Bible stories — the parting of the Red Sea, the birth of Jesus, the exile into Egypt — then he points to the image above and says, “And this picture shows when St. George slayed the dragon.”
My Roman Catholic education must have failed me. “Could you share the story about this painting?” I asked.
At first, the tour guide suspects that I am or accusing him of lying, so he defends the story’s validity.
“Oh, I believe you,” I say, “I’m just curious to know what the story is.”
He explains. Apparently the town had a habit of feeding its children to the dragon as a form of pagan sacrifice. The princess was up to be the town’s next offering. This sounds a bit like the beginning of the story of Abraham trying to sacrifice Isaac, but instead of divine intervention, St. George swoops in and slays the dragon. The princess is saved and the whole town converts to Christianity.
The tour guide told me that the princess’ name was Beirut, and that she became the namesake for the city in Lebanon.
It appears this story is common among Eastern Orthodox traditions, but these paintings are all over Ethiopia. Remind me and I’ll share a photo of their local beer bottle when I get a chance. If anyone knows how St. George became a favorite saint of Ethiopia, please comment or let me know.