Virtual WiP: Kevin Tuite: “The miracle of St George, the princess and the dragon — The earliest texts and images”

CRRC, ARISC and American Councils are pleased to announce the 3rd talk of the Spring 2024 Tbilisi Works-in-Progress series!

The talk will take place online through Zoom:

The miracle of St George, the princess and the dragon — The earliest texts and images

Kevin Tuite

Université de Montréal

Wednesday, January 31, 2024, at 18:30 Tbilisi time (9:30am EST)

Although the narrative of St George rescuing a princess from a dragon is one of the most popular legends from medieval Christian hagiography, the earliest stages of its creation and diffusion remain obscure. By the end of the 12th century, the princess-and-dragon miracle (henceforth, PDM) appeared in Greek and Latin manuscripts, and was depicted in frescoes throughout Georgia and northern Russia, and an icon at the St Catherine Monastery in Sinai. While the Crusades doubtlessly contributed to the spread of the PDM, and more generally, of the cult of George as patron of Christian warriors, the origin of the PDM predates the arrival of the first crusaders in the Holy Lands. Its earliest known appearance is in the codex Jer Geo 2, probably written at the Georgian monastery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem in the late 11th-c.

In this paper Dr. Kevin Tuite will compare the earliest textual and visual representations of the PDM. The corpus of texts in Old Georgian, Greek, Latin and Old Slavic diverge in interesting ways from each other, but without loss of evidence pointing to their common ancestry in a mid-11th-century Urtext. As for the iconography of the PDM, from the outset a single scene was selected to represent this miracle: the princess leading the dragon by a leash tied around its neck, followed by George astride a white horse (with his spear up, not attacking the dragon). The talk will conclude with thoughts on the linguistic and geographical contexts in which these standardized representations emerged.

Kevin Tuite teaches anthropology at the Université de Montréal. He has been conducting ethnological and linguistic fieldwork in Georgia since 1985, when Georgia was still a Soviet republic. He recently completed a five-year research project on vernacular religion in Soviet Georgia, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Recent publications include Sacred Places, Emerging Spaces: Pilgrims, Saints and Scholars in the Caucasus (edited with Tsypylma Darieva and Florian Mühlfried) and On the origin of Kartvelian version. He is currently working on a grammar of the Svan language, and a study of the origins of the legend of St George, the princess and the dragon.
********Works-in-Progress is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at Liziko Kavtaradze St. 1 and online. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.In observation of the spirit of the Chatham House Rule, the talks will not be recorded, and we courteously request that the other participants refrain from recording and/or distributing recordings as well. The opinions expressed in WiP talks are those of the speakers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC, ARISC or of American Councils.