The Chillon Castle collection is home to a statue of Saint George of Lydda, a fourth-century Christian martyr. Who was he really?
Considered the protector of knights, he was seen as the ‘superhero’ of the medieval period. Legend has it, he slayed the fiercest of adversaries – a dragon. Thanos and the Joker, eat your heart out!
The sculpture is made from limewood. His armour and hairstyle are typical of the late Middle Ages (15th century). In his left hand, Saint George holds a shield, which he brandishes in the monster’s face (like a total badass). Unfortunately, the poor guy seems to have lost his right arm in the battle. Originally, this amputated limb would have held a sword or a lance – the weapons Saint George held in most of his artistic depictions.
Not to be outdone, the dragon is also missing a few body parts, including its rear right foot, three claws from its rear left foot and the end of its tail. It’s more like a lizard at this point… How embarrassing!
The worst injury, however, was that inflicted upon Saint George, who has – to put it mildly – lost his codpiece. It’s not clear when or why, or whether it was an accident, a joke, or an act of vandalism. We feel sorry for him really…
But moving swiftly on from private parts… if you avert your gaze to his eyes, you’ll see they are looking downwards. This isn’t out of shyness, nor is he looking longingly at the space where his manhood used to be. It is likely that the statue used to be placed high up, against a wall. The back and the sides were not decorated, which suggests it was meant to be viewed from the front and from below.
Nowadays, our George is completely brown. But, back in the day, he would have been brightly coloured. His face and hands were painted pink. His trousers, shoes and shirt glowed bright red, just like the head of the dragon. The rest of the monster, on the other hand, was a greenish yellow colour. The most intricately decorated part was the armour, which was covered top-to-toe in silver leaf, apart from the joints, which were gold. Truly, the finest piece of art you ever did see!
If you look closely, you can still see some tiny fragments of these pigments. Want to see for yourself? You can admire the statue of Saint George in the Chillon Chapel (room 24) outside of any temporary exhibition dates.
Now you’ll never forget to celebrate Saint George’s Day on 23 April, right?!