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Saint George, Patron Saint of the Police

Copy of St. George statue in Kolozsvár. Original, created by the Kolozsvári brothers Márton and György in 1373, is in Prague. It is among the first European statues created specifically for a public square

Saint George, Patron Saint of the Police

Olga Vállay Szokolay 

The Police, as an armed body of government, is in charge of public safety, protection of constitutional order, law enforcement and certain other administrative tasks.  Its professional members are ranked similarly to other armed forces.

It is certain that some body with a function corresponding to the modern-day Police is the same age as the State, since the latter could not have survived without it.  The Greek word politea, meaning the “science of the correct governing of the State”, is the origin of the expressions police, Polizei, polizia, policia, etc. in most Western languages.

The Hungarian “rendőr”, of course, is irregular, meaning “guard of order”.

The word was born in the early part of the 19th century, during the language renewal era.  The Hungarian policemen’s uniform has undergone several changes to the present day.

By the early 20th century, the Hungarian State Police became a cutting-edge force in Europe.  Their detective department was developed; they regulated automobile traffic and were first on the Continent to adopt the fingerprinting-based system of identification.

Since 1992, the Day of the Police has been celebrated in Hungary on April 24th, the day of their Patron, Saint George.  The eponym was an early Christian martyr embodying military virtue and selflessness and was surrounded by some controversial legend and myth.

Born around 270 A.D. in Cappadocia, George was of Greek origin and a high-ranking officer serving in the Guard of the Roman Emperor Diocletian who sentenced him to death at age 33, for protesting the Emperor’s persecution of Christians.  In a famous tale, George rescued a Lybian princess from a sea monster or dragon. 

Over the centuries, Saint George the dragon-slayer was the patron of knights, gunsmiths, mounted soldiers and hobos.  At present, he is the protector saint of England, of Scouts and the Police.  

Observing April 24th as the Day of the Police, many Hungarian police stations are closed for administrative business.

May they slay all the monsters, dragons and other enemies of law and order!

Olga Vállay Szokolay is an Architect and Professor Emerita of Norwalk Community College, CT after three decades of teaching.  She is a member of the Editorial Board of Magyar News Online.


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