Margaret the Virgin

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Saint Margaret of Antioch
Saint Marina the Great Martyr
St.Marina the Martyr hammering a devil.jpg
Saint Marina the Great Martyr. An illustration in her hagiography printed in Greece depicting her beating a demon with a hammer. Date on the picture: 1858.
Virgin-Martyr and Vanquisher of Demons
Bornc. 289
Antioch of Pisidia
Diedc. 304 (aged 15)
Feast20 July (Catholic Church, Anglicanism,[1] Western Rite Orthodoxy)

17 July (Byzantine Christianity)
Epip 23 (Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria) (Martyrdom)

Hathor 23 (Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria) (Consecration of her Church)
Attributesslain dragon (Western depictions)
hammer, defeated demon (Eastern Orthodox depictions)
Patronagechildbirth, pregnant women, dying people, kidney disease, peasants, exiles, falsely accused people; Lowestoft, England; Queens' College, Cambridge; nurses; Sannat and Cospicua, Malta

Margaret, known as Margaret of Antioch in the West, and as Saint Marina the Great Martyr (Greek: Ἁγία Μαρίνα) in the East, is celebrated as a saint on 20 July in the Western Rite Orthodoxy, Roman Catholic Church and Anglicanism, on 17 July (Julian calendar) by the Eastern Orthodox Church and on Epip 23 and Hathor 23 in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.[2]

Said to have been martyred in 304, she was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius I in 494[citation needed], but devotion to her revived in the West with the Crusades.

She was reputed to have promised very powerful indulgences to those who wrote or read her life, or invoked her intercessions; these no doubt helped the spread of her cultus.[3]

Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints Joan of Arc claimed to have spoken with.


According to the version of the story in The Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch and the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother having died soon after her birth, Margaret was nursed by a Christian woman five or six leagues (6.9–8.3 miles) from Antioch. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, Margaret was disowned by her father, adopted by her nurse, and lived in the country keeping sheep with her foster mother (in what is now Turkey).[4] Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, asked to marry her, but with the demand that she renounce Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards.


The Eastern Orthodox Church knows Margaret as Saint Marina, and celebrates her feast day on 17 July. The Greek Marina came from Antioch in Pisidia (as opposed to Antioch of Syria), but this distinction was lost in the West.

The story was summarized in the 9th-century martyrology of Rabanus Maurus, even if it was too fantastic for many clergy (it went too far even for Jacobus de Voragine, who remarks that the part where she is eaten by the dragon is to be considered a legend).[5]

In 1222, the Council of Oxford added her to the list of feast days, and so her cult acquired great popularity. Many versions of the story were told in 13th-century England, in Anglo-Norman (including one ascribed to Nicholas Bozon), English, and Latin,[6] and more than 250 churches are dedicated to her in England, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church[7] of the British Houses of Parliament in London. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from, or standing above, a dragon.

She was recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church, being listed as such in the Roman Martyrology for 20 July.[8] She was also included from the 12th to the 20th century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated,[9] but was then removed from that list because of the entirely fabulous character of the stories told of her.[10]

Every year on Epip 23 the Coptic Orthodox church celebrates her martyrdom day,[2] and on Hathor 23 the Coptic church celebrates the dedication of a church to her name. Saint Mary church in Cairo holds a relic believed to be Margaret's right hand, previously moved from the Angel Michael Church (modernly known as Haret Al Gawayna) following its destruction in the 13th century AD. It is displayed to the public and visitors on her feast days.[citation needed]

Margaret is remembered in the Church of England with a commemoration on 20 July.[11]


Saint Margaret and the Dragon, alabaster with traces of gilding, Toulouse (c. 1475). (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Reliquary Bust of Saint Margaret of Antioch. Attributed to Nikolaus Gerhaert (active in Germany, 1462–73).
Saint Margaret of Antioch, limestone with paint and gilding, Burgos (c. 1275-1325). (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Saint Margaret of Antioch by Peter Candid (second half of the 16th century).
Saint Margaret attracts the attention of the Roman prefect, by Jean Fouquet (from an illuminated manuscript).
Saint Margaret as a fresco from 1548 in the 12th century Sulsted Church
Margaret the Virgin on a painting in the Novacella Abbey, Neustift, South Tyrol, Italy.
Margaret the Virgin in the coat of arms of Vehmaa.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Book of Common Prayer
  2. ^ a b "23 أبيب - اليوم الثالث والعشرين من شهر أبيب - السنكسار". 11 October 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2018.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ "Margaret of Antioch". The Oxford Dictionary of Saints. David Hugh Farmer. Oxford University Press, 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Accessed 16 June 2007
  4. ^ MacRory, Joseph. "St. Margaret." The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 1 Mar. 2013
  5. ^ de Voragine, Jacobus (1993). The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. 1. Translated by Ryan, William Granger. Princeton UP. pp. 368–70.
  6. ^ Jones, Timothy (1994). "Geoffrey of Monmouth, "Fouke le Fitz Waryn," and National Mythology". Studies in Philology. 91 (3): 233–249. JSTOR 4174487.
  7. ^ Westminster Abbey. "St. Margaret's, Westminster Parish details". Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  8. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  9. ^ See General Roman Calendar as in 1954
  10. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 130
  11. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 27 March 2021.


  • Acta Sanctorum, July, v. 24–45
  • Bibliotheca hagiographica. La/ma (Brussels, 1899), n. 5303–53r3
  • Frances Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), i. 131–133 and iii. 19.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Margaret, St". Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 700.

External links[edit]