The Dragons have arrived! From now until September 5th you will be able to see over eighty painted dragon sculptures on the streets of Norwich. Over one hundred small dragon sculptures will be on display in The Forum, Chapelfield, Castle Mall, The Lanes and other independent retailers. But did you know that Norwich has long been a city of dragons?
Council staff help three of the eighty dragons take their places before the trail launches on 22nd June
There are a great number of myths and tales about dragons- The Book of Dragons & Other Mythical Beasts and Dragonology (BOOK ZONE 398) are great books to start your research. In England, the most famous tale involving a dragon is that of Saint George.
Dragonology, compiled by the fictional Dr Drake, is full of beautiful colour illustrations like this one
A ferocious dragon decided to settle in a cave just outside of a city. The people of the city feared for their lives, so they would leave one sheep a day for the dragon to eat. Eventually the city ran out of sheep, so they started to leave one human a week (for humans are much better eating than sheep) The unlucky person was chosen by lottery- until one day that King’s daughter was chosen. George happened to pass by the entrance to the cave, where the frightened girl awaited the arrival of the dragon. The dragon attempted to kill and eat them both, but George was stronger, and instead he killed the dragon, freeing the city from its reign of terror.
St George slays the dragon in a painting by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones
The tale became famous during the crusades and George became the Patron Saint of England in 1350. At this time Norwich had many guilds, each representing a different trade. In 1385 a new guild was formed called “The Guild & Fraternity of St George”. It quickly became a wealthy guild, with religious, charitable and social connections throughout the city, despite its lack of connection to a trade. On St George’s Day, 23rd April, they paid for a big procession through the city, a service in Norwich Cathedral and a huge feast.
This was where Snap the Dragon was born. As part of the procession a man dressed as St George was accompanied by a dragon who would run around and snap at people (the sound of his jaws closing earned him his name) When they arrived at the cathedral Snap would try and break in, but as dragons were said to represent the Devil, he was not allowed entry. There would be a mock fight between the dragon and the priests of the cathedral before Snap was chased off…until next year.
The new, improved version of Snap tries to enter Norwich cathedral, accompanied by a ‘Whiffler’ or Morris Man
Snap played a role in the procession until 1835, when the guild was disbanded and Snap went into retirement. He reappeared in 1976 for the Lord Mayor’s procession, and in 2008 he was rebuilt to be much lighter, retaining only the head of the original dragon. If you want to find out more about the history of Snap and Norwich, try looking in our local history section (BOOK ZONE 942.615). You can find Snap’s relatives in Dragon’s Hall, the Cathedral, the Great Hospital, the Guildhall, the Castle Gardens and Tombland, as well as in many stained glass windows and clocks around the city.
To celebrate Norwich’s connection with the dragon, the GoGo Dragons trail has commissioned seven heritage dragons. Check them out here before you set out on the trail.
You can win prizes for your dragon selfies by using the EDP app. Find the instructions here