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  Columnist: Patrick Bernauw

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Saint George is killing the dragon over and over again

Posted on Monday, 12 July, 2010 | 4 comments
Columnist: Patrick Bernauw

In the city of Mons (Belgium), Saint George is killing the Dragon over and over again. His legend here is inextricably intertwined with the fate of a knight, Gilles de Chin, who in the 12th century indeed killed a “dragon” with his spear somewhere in the swamps of the Haine. In Mons, every weekend after Pentecost, St. George is ready to go and meet the Dragon one more time. The name of the ritual is also the name of the monster: Le Lumeçon.

St. George is dressed very strange in a yellow jacket and white trousers and with a nineteenth century French cuirassier helmet on his head. He is accompanied by six types of equally remarkable characters. All together they descend to the Grand Place, where thousands of people are trying to pull out a horsehair from the tail of the dragon or “The Beast”. This is a very powerful lucky charm.

While the song of the song of the Doudou sounds and the drums are continuously beating, St. George fights the dragon with his lance, then with his sword and finally he kills the Beast with his pistol. An enthusiastic crowd sings: “Les Montois ne periront pas!” – Indeed, the fate of the city is secured for another year… Mons will definitely not perish!

Originally, the dragon was defeated by St. George under the eyes of the Princess of Trabzon. For Christianity, his heroic act resulted in 20,000 new converts. In Mons, this legend inextricably intertwined with the fate of Gilles de Chin, who in the 12th century indeed killed a dragon with his spear somewhere in the swamps of the Haine. Another version of the same story tells us that the price on the head of the Beast was the love of a beautiful prisoner, and also it is said that Gilles de Chin only managed to beat the dragon because he was aided by a really gorgeous angel…

One thing is for sure: the Lumeçon terrorized the region of Mons for quite some time. He devoured people and animals, swords and spears were just scratching his back and the armor of the knights was bitten in pieces between his teeth. Gilles decided that the terror had to end. He mounted his steed and with a pack of blood hounds he went looking for the Lumeçon.

The battle lasted for days. His dogs had already fallen prey to the monster and countless times Gilles himself only narrowly escaped a horrible death…  He was completely exhausted. It really looked bad for him. Very bad.

And then there suddenly appeared a beautiful girl, frail, dressed all in white. She wore a lantern and seemed totally unaware of the proximity of the Lumeçon.

“Watch out!” Gilles screamed. “The Beast will tear you apart!”

The girl looked at Gilles with those beautiful eyes of hers. She gave him a heavenly smile and threw a crown of thorns to him.

“Give him this to eat!” she said.

Gilles took the thorns with the point of his lance and stuffed them into the maw of the monster. The dragon opened his mouth to spit out the thorns and at that moment the girl came forward and lifted her lantern. Immediately, the thorns were on fire… and the girl dissolved into nothingness. The Lumeçon was paralyzed by pain. This time, it took little effort to plant a lance in the heart of the monster.

It is reported that the skull of the dragon Gilles de Chin brought to Mons is still within the city walls. Paleontologists examined the skull and identified this Beast as a saurus of the First Mesozoic, a distant cousin of the giant lizards that – not far from here – were discovered in a mineshaft in Bernissart. So, maybe this “dragon” isn’t simply a fantasy tale from a distant past…

Coincidentally – or not –, there is the very true story of The Angels of Mons, featuring a St. George who defeats a terrible German Dragon during the first battle of the Great War… Of course, they are also part of the city game/mystery weekend that is organized in this lovely city: The Mystery of Mons.

Article Copyright© Patrick Bernauw - reproduced with permission.

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