St George and the Dragon in Belgium

Mons is an historical Walloon city in Belgium and capital of Hainault Province. It has a tradition which harks back to the 14th century that is still celebrated each July.

Called the Battle of Lumecon, it is a procession and battle that is accompanied by music, and is based on the story of St George and the Dragon.

The Legend of St George harks back to the 4th century. According to the story, a dragon which is located in Silene, a city in the area which is now called Libya, requires human sacrifices each day. One day it is the turn of the King’s daughter to be sacrificed. George, a young Christian officer, is sent to subjugate the monster which he accomplishes by tying the princess’s belt around its neck, then returns to the city with the princess and the monster. The Royal family and the inhabitants are converted to Christianity and George slays the dragon.

The festivities begin with audience helping to push a golden chariot, which carries sacred relics, through the streets of Mons. Apart from the audience, more than a thousand costumed characters participate in the procession.

Then thirty-one men perform in the Lumecon and form part of either the Saint’s escort or that of the dragon. Saint George rides on a horseback, and eight of his protectors assist him in pursuing the dragon. Eleven men support the dragon’s body which is escorted by devils and savages.

Once again, the audience gets involved because as the dragon is moved through the streets its tail is moved from side to side in an attempt to hit the bystanders. Those in the front of the throng try to grab the dragon’s tail and to pull out its hair and ribbons as both of these are believed to bring good luck. Following the procession there is a great choreographed battle that takes place in the main square of Mons between St George and the dragon which lasts for about half an hour before the dragon is slain.

The Battle of Lumecon is a very colourful and noisy festivity which is held on Trinity Sunday each year. It was first staged following the Black Plague to honour St Waltrude who, it is believed, caused a miracle which ended the plague.

Although the festival has enormous local significance, visitors are more than welcome, and, indeed, are encouraged, to join in to help move the enormous golden chariot and to pluck the hairs and ribbons from the dragons monstrous tail.

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