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|
|Died||304 (aged 15)|
|Feast||20 July (Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church,Western Rite Orthodoxy)|
Hathor 23 (Coptic Christianity) (Consecration of her Church)
|Attributes||slain dragon (Western depictions); hammer, defeated demon (Eastern Orthodox depictions)|
|Patronage||childbirth, 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 by Pope Paul VI|
Margaret, known as Margaret of Antioch in the West, and as (Greek: ? ) 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.
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). 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).
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 We possess no historical documents on Saint Margaret as distinct from Saint Pelagia.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).
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, and more than 250 churches are dedicated to her in England, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church 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. She was also included from the 12th to the 20th century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated, but was then removed from that list because of the entirely fabulous character of the stories told of her.
Every year on Epip 23 the Coptic Orthodox church celebrates her martyrdom day, 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.