Feast Day :July 20 in the West; July 13 in the Eastern Church
Also known as: Margaritha, Margaretha, Marina, Marine
Patronage: against death; against sterility; childbirth; escape from devils; exiles; kidney disease; loss of milk by nursing mothers; martyrs; nurses; peasants; people falsely accused; pregnant women; women; women in labor; Queen’s College, Cambridge Also known as: Margaritha, Margaretha, Marina, Marine
Margaret of Antioch was one of the most popular virgin martyrs in the canon of the Church during the Middle Ages, but later scholars believe that while she may have been martyred, anything else attributed to her was purely legend and attributable to a forgery written in the 10th century, allegedly by Theotimus, Margaret’s servant. She is no longer a part of the Catholic calendar. Her story is as follows: Margaret was the daughter of a pagan priest in Antioch, Pisidia, and was nursed by a Christian woman who became her guardian after Margaret’s own conversion. One day, while tending her guardian’s flocks, Margaret came to the unfortunate notice of the prefect Olybrius, who lusted for her. Margaret spurned his advances, and Olybrius vindictively turned her in to the tribunal as a Christian. She was imprisoned, where the devil appeared to her as a dragon and swallowed her. But brave Margaret, holding a cross, so irritated the devil-dragon that he either disgorged her or exploded. The next day the authorities tried to torture Margaret, first by fire then by immersion in a cauldron of boiling water. Neither worked, and the thousands who witnessed her ordeal were so moved that they converted to Christianity en masse, then were promptly executed. Finally, the prefect ordered her beheading, and she died. Her executioner fell dead at her feet so he could join the virgin in heaven, and a noble widow buried her body in Antioch. Margaret was one of the voices heard by St. Joan of Arc, along with SS. Catherine of Alexandria and Michael the Archangel. Pregnant women often pray for Margaret’s intercession, believing that her disgorgement from the dragon is a sign of safe delivery during childbirth. Her supposed relics were stolen from Antioch in 980 and brought to San Pietro della Valle, then translated to Montefiascone in 1145. Some relics were moved to Venice in 1213, and others are claimed in churches throughout Europe.