Saint Margaret of Antioch
(Marina; Margaritha; Marine; Margaretha)
Patron Saint of:
Women, labor and childbirth, expectant mothers
Feast Day: 20 July
Saint Margaret of Antioch
Died c. 304. Margaret's cultus began in the East and spread to
France, England, and Germany, becoming one of the most popular virgin-martyrs of the
Middle Ages. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers (honored as a group on August 8), who
were venerated for their efficacious intercessory power. Promises Margaret supposedly made
about her powers of intercession contributed to her popularity.
Margaret is said to have been a maiden of Antioch, Pisidia,
martyred under Diocletian. Her story takes place under Diocletian.
According to her
acta, she was the daughter of a pagan
priest of Antioch and was nursed by a Christian woman. She became a Christian and was
consequently driven from home by her father. She lived with her nurse and became a
Margaret was admired by the
Prefect Olybrius, who wanted her either as a
wife or a mistress, but she resisted him. He vindictively called her before his tribunal
and accused her of being a Christian. She was tortured and thrown into prison. There the
devil appeared to her in the form of a dragon and swallowed her, but she held a
which irritated his stomach, causing it to burst, and thus was freed. She confronted
another demon and overcame it.
The next day attempts were made to kill her by fire and water,
but they failed. Thousands of spectators were converted during these attempts, and they in
turn, were executed. She was finally killed by beheading. Her executioner fell dead at her
feet after killing her, a reward for not wishing to carry out his task, for in this way he
could join her in heaven. Her body was taken by Theotimus and buried by a noble widow.
Margaret's voice was one of those heard by Saint Joan of Arc. Her alleged
relics were stolen from Antioch in 980, brought to San Pietro della Valle, and were
translated to Montefiascone in 1145. Some of her relics were translated to Venice in 1213,
and many others are claimed throughout Europe.
In art, Saint Margaret carries a small cross and has a dragon on
lead, or trampling or standing on a dragon, or emerging from its mouth, or piercing it
with a cross-tipped spear. She is invoked against kidney disease, by pregnant women
(probably because she was swallowed by a dragon and delivered whole and because she is
reputed to have promised that women who invoked her during childbirth would have safe
deliveries), and of death (she is reputed to have promised that whoever invoked her as
they were dying would escape the devil). In the Eastern Church she is known as Saint
GRANT, O Lord, that, like blessed
Margaret, thy Virgin and Martyr; by the merits of her chastity and
godliness of conversation did ever walk acceptably in thy sight; so
she may at all times effectually intercede for our forgiveness.