St. George

“Svyatogor” Hard stone carving studio

The figure of St. George adorns the emblem of Moscow, an ancient city and the capital of the country today. This is no surprise. St. George is one of the most popular saints in Russia. In the past, he was worshipped as the patron of princes and warriors, and as Russia’s heavenly protector. The image of St. George was first minted on the Moscow coins in the first half of the 15th century.

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St. George (? – 303/304) — a martyr, a saint of the Russian Orthodox Church.


The figure of St. George adorns the emblem of Moscow, an ancient city and the capital of the country today. This is no surprise. St. George is one of the most popular saints in Russia. In the past, he was worshipped as the patron of princes and warriors, and as Russia’s heavenly protector. The image of St. George was first minted on the Moscow coins in the first half of the 15th century.

According to The Life of St. George, he was born into a peasant family in Lydda (Palestine). When he entered military service, George stood out for his wit, courage and strength, which won him the high status as a chiliarch. Emperor Diocletian himself praised the warrior’s talents.

After his mother’s death, George inherited a large fortune and gained influence at the Court. However, when the persecution of Christians began, he gave his property to the poor and publicly declared himself a Christian. George was arrested and subjected to brutal torture. He was tortured for seven days, but every time he was found miraculously unharmed. Then George was sentenced to death, and on the night before his execution, he saw Jesus Christ who told him that paradise awaited him. George was beheaded, and the Emperor’s wife Alexandra was executed together with him. She also joined the ranks of those who believed in Christ, impressed by miracles that the Holy Martyr performed.

Shortly after his death, St. George gained great popularity in the Byzantine Empire, and then in Western Europe and the Middle East. Legends were told about him. The most famous of them says that St. George won a victory over the monstrous Dragon and rescued the Princess and the city that were threatened by the monster. This miracle is related to both earthly and heavenly life of St. George: there is a belief that the city inhabitants adopted christianity after this salvation.

The Stone

The sculpture of St. George spearing the dragon is one of the most ambitious works produced by “Svyatogor”. It shows genuine power and grace embodied in sculpture and is marked with the careful approach to all details, down to the minute ones.

The impressive dimensions of sculpture and the careful use of materials and details ensuring its “eloquence” is the hallmark of the artistic style developed by the company from Yekaterinburg that revives the traditions of the lapidary art that their land is so rich in. Alexey Denisov-Uralskiy, the famous painter and stone-cutter, was the only artist in Russia who produced large works from hard stone with splendid architectonical pedestals; some examples include the figure of Marianne — the allegory of France, the Angel of Piece on a huge granite ball or a grotesque portrait — a Kaiser Wilhelm monument on a step-shaped pedestal of labradorite, limonite and marble. In the 1940s, Nikolay Tataurov, Denisov-Uralsky’s fellow countryman, who was a master at Yekaterinburg Lapidary Factory that was under the direct supervision of the Imperial Court, also created multi-image compositions from hard stone; thus, the students of the Sverdlovsk College for Crafts produced a signature piece “Ural Is Forging Victory” that includes figures of blacksmiths and additionally the traditional local “hill of gems”, three-dimensional models of a tank and a tractor and, to crown it all, a stone ornamental element — the backcloth with images of factories made using the Florentine mosaic technique. On the other hand, the knowledgeable artists and craftsmen working at “Svyatogor” have paid tribute to the Russian heraldic sculpture of hard stones. The coat of arms of the city of Yaroslavl — a bear made of obsidian with a golden pole axe on a jasper pedestal produced by the masters of the famous Tsar’s court company owned by Carl Faberge is just one example of such works.

The artists created a monumental composition of George the Dragon Fighter “famous in all lands of the Christian world”, one of the most revered saints in Russia that was rightly made part of the coat of arms of Moscow, the country’s capital. According to the scientist Savely Senderovich, “this does not boil down to a religious cult but rather is a broader cultural phenomenon”; that is why the image of St. George inevitably returns into the Russian culture in different eras. The stone carvers at “Svyatogor” have redefined this image by creating a sculpture full of internal and external dramatism and featuring a unique style that is obvious to everyone. George is shown as a mighty warrior, at the climax of the battle with the Dragon: the scarlet blood of the wounded horse and the martyr’s red cloak add bright accents to the black and white and, at the same time, extremely picturesque colour palette featuring a combination of various shades of black, white, and grey. The fight between the two fundamental elements is shown through the contrasting images of the dragon in grey-and-black, symbolising darkness, and the rider on the white horse of pale chalcedony, with an agate mane and the radiant gilded harness. Ivan Golubev and Stanislav Shiryaev, the artists, demonstrate both their excellence in stone carving and their academic background: the martyr’s face made of pale-coloured stone is unbelievably expressive and has a tragic touch (as if he is still not sure about the outcome of the battle); his body clad in stone armour made using the cameo technique is the evidence of thorough, meticulous attention to each muscle. The complex vortex shaped composition overcomes the inertia of solid stone; it is as if the space around the sculpture is torn with the powerful, intense movements of the rider who is wearing a fluttering cloak and his rearing horse with the tousled mane. The bold silhouettes of the figures create a dynamic “play” of the lines that doesn’t look too complicated and confusing because of the balanced colour palette the precise plastics of gestures and movements. The sculpture is erected on a dark base, just as heavy as the sculptures, with crystals of morion and a metal rim with embossed “plaiting” in the “old Russian” style.

Without a doubt, “St. George” is one of the most representative and valuable stone-cutting works of our time.

The Miracle of St. George and the Dragon

This happened when Saint George was a knight. His army was dismissed, and he was walking to his homeland in Cappadocia. It was God’s will that he found himself in a certain place and he wanted to give water to his horse. And he saw a young girl sitting there, tears falling on her knees, and that she was crying, while looking around. He asked her, “Who are you and who are those people out there, in the distance, and why are they crying?”

She said, “The tale is very long and I cannot tell it to you. Go your way, fair young man, lest you perish as well.”

Then he said, “Tell me why you are weeping. I swear in God’s name that if I die, I will die with you and shall not leave you.”

Then the girl cried and said, “Sir, our town is wealthy and prosperous. But there is an evil dragon in the swamp. He comes out onto dry land every day to feast on the citizens. My Father made an ordinance and the lot to be eaten by the beast fell upon me. Now I have told you everything. Leave.”

On hearing that, Saint George said, “Fair daughter, fear not and stay calm.”

Saint George, who was on his horse, drew his sword, made the sign of the cross, then rode swiftly toward the dragon, saying, “O Lord, kill this fierce dragon to make those unbelieving people believe in you.” And with God’s help, the dragon fell to St. George’s feet.

Then he said to the maid, “Take off your belt and take the reins off my horse and give them to me.”

When she had done so, the dragon followed her meekly. She led him into the city, and the people fled in fear.

Saint George said to them, “Doubt not. See what will happen, believe in God and Jesus Christ, and I shall slay the dragon.”

Then the king and all his people shouted, “We believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy spirit, and the undivided Trinity.” Upon hearing these words, Saint George unsheathed his sword and killed the dragon, and returned the girl to the king.

St. George

“Svyatogor” Hard stone carving studio


Author: Ivan Golubev

Craftsmen: Stanislav Shiryaev, Ivan Golubev

Jeweller: Dmitri Evdokimov

Materials: pyrite, moss agate, jasper, marble, Belarus flint, agate, chalcedony, grey quartzite, fossilised wood, flint, red jasper, Shaytan agate, smoky quartz, metal

Dimensions: 70 × 63 × 65.5 cm