Reformed Churchmen

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

20 July. 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Margaret, Martyr.

20 July.  1662 Book of Common Prayer. Margaret, Martyr.

Margaret, Virgin and Martyr, said to have been martyred at Antioch in Pisidia (A.D. 278); commemorated as a "Great Martyr" by the Greek Church on July 17th. Nothing is really known about her; but, being usually represented as trampling on or piercing a dragon, she was obviously taken as a type of the power of faith in the weak to confound the strong. -- July 20th.

Margaret the Virgin-Martyr, known as Margaret of Antioch (in Pisidia) in the West, and as and Saint Marina the Great-Martyr (Greek: γία Μαρίνα) in the East, is celebrated as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches on July 20 and on July 17 in the Orthodox Church. Her historical existence has been questioned. 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.[2]


According to the version of the story in Golden Legend, she was a native of Antioch, and she was the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother having died soon after her birth, Margaret was nursed by a pious woman five or six leagues from Antioch. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, she 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).[3] Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, asked to marry her but with the price of her renunciation of 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, in an atypical passage of skepticism, describes this last incident as "apocryphal and not to be taken seriously" (trans. Ryan, 1.369). She was put to death in A.D. 304.
Saint Margaret, as Saint Marina, with associations to the sea, 'may in turn point to an older goddess tradition', reflecting the pagan divinity Aphrodite.[4]


The Eastern Orthodox Church knows Margaret as Saint Marina, and celebrates her feast day on July 17. She has been identified with Saint Pelagia. "Marina" being the Latin equivalent of the Greek name "Pelagia" who, according to a legend, was also called Margarita. We possess no historical documents on St. Margaret as distinct from St. Pelagia. The Greek Marina came from Antioch, Pisidia (as opposed to Antioch of Syria), but this distinction was lost in the West.
The cultus of Saint Margaret became very widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her, most famously, St. Margaret's, Westminster, the parish church[5] of the British Houses of Parliament in London. Some consider her a patron saint of pregnancy. 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 July 20.[6] She was also included from the twelfth to the twentieth century among the saints to be commemorated wherever the Roman Rite was celebrated,[7] but was then removed from that list because of the entirely fabulous character of the stories told of her.[8] Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.


Saint Margaret and the Dragon, alabaster with traces of gilding, Toulouse (ca 1475). (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Reliquary Bust of Saint Margaret of Antioch. Attributed to Nikolaus Gerhaert (active in Germany, 1462 - 73).
St. Margaret as a shepherdess by Francisco de Zurbarán, (1631).
St. Margaret of Antioch by Peter Candid (second half of 16th century)
Margaret the Virgin on a painting in the Novacella Abbey, Neustift, South Tyrol, Italy.
Saint Margaret attracts the attention of the Roman prefect, by Jean Fouquet, (from an illuminated manuscript).


1.       Jump up ^ 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. 
2.       Jump up ^ "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.       Jump up ^ 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. 
5.       Jump up ^ Westminster Abbey. "St. Margaret's, Westminster Parish details". Archived from the original on 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
6.       Jump up ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001 ISBN 88-209-7210-7)
8.       Jump up ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 130


  • 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). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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