Margaret the Virgin

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 Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, on 17 July (Julian calendar) by the Eastern-Rite Orthodox Church and on Epip 23 and Hathor 23 in the Coptic Churches.[3]

Saint Margaret of Antioch
Saint Marina the Great Martyr
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
Antioch, Pisidia
Died304 (aged 15)
Feast20 July (Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church,[1] Western Rite Orthodoxy)

17 July (Byzantine Christianity)
Epip 23 (Coptic Christianity) (Martyrdom)

Hathor 23 (Coptic Christianity) (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 Bormla, Malta
Catholic cult suppressed
1969[2] by Pope Paul VI

Said to have been martyred in 304, she was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius I in 494, 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.[4]

Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.


According to the version of the story in 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).[5] 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 Golden Legend describes this last incident as "apocryphal and not to be taken seriously" (trans. Ryan, 1.369).

As Saint Marina, she is associated with the sea, which "may in turn point to an older goddess tradition", reflecting the pagan divinity, Aphrodite.[6]


The Eastern Orthodox Church knows Margaret as Saint Marina, and celebrates her feast day on 17 July. She has been identified with Saint Pelagia, "Marina" being the Latin equivalent of the Greek "Pelagia" who—according to her hagiography by James, the deacon of Heliopolis—had been known as "Margarita" ("Pearl"). We possess no historical documents on Saint Margaret as distinct from Saint Pelagia. 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 apocryphal).[7]

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,[8] and more than 250 churches are dedicated to her in England, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church[9] of the British Houses of Parliament in London. In art, she is usually pictured escaping from, or standing above, a dragon.

She is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, being listed as such in the Roman Martyrology for 20 July.[10] She was also included from the 12th to the 20th century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated,[11] but was then removed from that list because of the entirely fabulous character of the stories told of her.[12]

Every year on Epip 23 the Coptic Orthodox church celebrates her martyrdom day,[3] 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.


See also



  1. Book of Common Prayer
  2. Mary Clayton; Hugh Magennis (15 September 1994). The Old English Lives of St. Margaret. Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-521-43382-2.
  3. "23 أبيب - اليوم الثالث والعشرين من شهر أبيب - السنكسار". 11 October 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  4. "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
  5. MacRory, Joseph. "St. Margaret." The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 1 Mar. 2013
  6. Gábor Klaniczay; Éva Pócs; Eszter Csonka-Takacs (2006). Christian Demonology and Popular Mythology. Central European University Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-963-7326-76-9.
  7. de Voragine, Jacobus (1993). The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. 1. Translated by Ryan, William Granger. Princeton UP. pp. 368–70.
  8. Jones, Timothy (1994). "Geoffrey of Monmouth, "Fouke le Fitz Waryn," and National Mythology". Studies in Philology. 91 (3): 233–249. JSTOR 4174487.
  9. Westminster Abbey. "St. Margaret's, Westminster Parish details". Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  10. Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
  11. See General Roman Calendar as in 1954
  12. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 130


  • Acta Sanctorum, July, v. 2445
  • Bibliotheca hagiographica. La/ma (Brussels, 1899), n. 530353r3
  • Frances Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications (London, 1899), i. 131133 and iii. 19.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Margaret, St". Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 700.

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