November 01, 2003

Saint George

Saint George was returned to the Moscow coat of arms by mayoral decree ten years ago, on November 23, 1993. The emblem depicts St. George on a silver horse, wearing a blue cape and silver armor, killing a black dragon with a golden spear.

The custom of having the portrait of a prince and his saint on coats of arms came to Russia from Byzantium, at the end of the 10th century. St. George appeared on Russian coins and seals for the first time during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise (11th century). Under Ivan III, the depiction of a horseman slaying a dragon became the Moscow principality’s coat of arms. This change coincided with the gathering of Russian lands around Moscow.

In the 16th century, the Russian State Seal featured a double-headed eagle and the breast-shield carried the symbol of Moscow — a horseman killing a dragon. In 1663, the horseman on this breast-shield was made to resemble Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, and later Peter the Great. It was Peter I who was the first to define the horseman on the Arms of Moscow as St. George, though during Peter’s
reign it was still a lay horseman who wore a jacket and a hat.

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