Page last updated at 08:03 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 09:03 UK

Urgup in Turkey seeks English twin on St George's Day

By Kerry McDermott
BBC News

Urgup, Turkey
The Turkish town of Urgup is seeking a twin town in England

St George may be the patron saint of England, but he was born some 2,000 miles away in what is now Turkey.

Now the small Turkish town of Urgup wants to celebrate its links with St George by finding a twin town in England.

Urgup is situated at the foot of Mount Erciyes in Central Anatolia, said to be the scene of the mythical showdown between St George and the dragon.

And frescoes depicting St George and his foe can be found just outside the town in the Goreme caves.

The caves are home to a series of underground churches that were decorated by Christian monks in the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, and the handiwork contained within includes several of the earliest known representations of St George and the dragon.

'Symbolic move'

According to the Mayor of Urgup, Fahri Yildiz, the town's association with the legend of St George is a source of pride for local people.

"We are very proud of being connected to such a famous and well-known character, who has since become the patron saint of England," he said.

"This symbolic move will encourage a greater acknowledgement of the interest that Turkey and England share in St George."

Max Hill, from the Sandy Twinning Association in Bedfordshire, said the fact England's patron saint was born in Turkey would make a basis for a successful partnership between the two countries.

Cave painting of St George
A cave painting outside Urgup depicting St George on horseback

"Given St George's connections with Turkey I think it would be quite an appropriate link to develop," he said.

The twinning association in Sandy - a town twinned with both Malaunay in France and Skarszewy in Poland - has developed a web forum for towns across the country involved in twinning activities.

"Twinning is a great way of bringing communities together," Mr Hill said.

"If this little town in Turkey celebrates St George's Day, then there is already a connection that can be built upon year on year.

"There could be visits back and forth between the two countries on St George's Day and so on."

Mr Hill said a shared interest helped links between twin towns to flourish.

"One of the things we have been able to build on with our own twin towns is Remembrance Day," he said.

"As we have partners in France and Poland it is quite appropriate, and we have French and Polish delegations at our Remembrance Day events in Sandy."

Emma Angel, director of London fancy dress shop Angels, which is organising the twinning project, said: "At a time when Turkey is moving closer to Europe in many ways, it is an opportunity for the English to celebrate an unexpected shared historical and cultural link."

Imprisoned and tortured

Although the legend of St George and the dragon is well known, facts about England's patron saint are few and far between.

George is thought to have been a soldier that rose through the ranks of the Roman army, but resigned his post in protest when the emperor of the day, Diocletian, began persecuting Christians at the beginning of the fourth century.

He was imprisoned and tortured, but refused to deny his faith, and was eventually beheaded in Palestine - reputedly on 23 April 303.

In 1222, the Synod of Oxford declared 23 April St George's Day.

Cities, towns or villages in England interested in becoming Urgup's "twin" are invited to submit 500 words on the Twin for George website demonstrating their own historical, religious or cultural association with St George.

A shortlist of contenders will be drawn up in autumn 2010, and the winning location - chosen by the mayor of Urgup - will be announced on 23 April 2011.

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