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Saint Margaret the Virgin

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Saint Margaret, also known as Margaret of Antioch, virgin and martyr, was formerly celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on July 20.

According to the legend, she was a native of Antioch, daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. She was scorned by her father for her Christian faith, and lived in the country with a foster-mother keeping sheep. Olybrius, the praeses orientis, offered her marriage as the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Her refusal led to her being cruelly tortured, and after various miraculous incidents, she was put to death.

The Greek church knows Margaret as Marina, and celebrates her festival on 17 July. 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 Margarito. We possess no historical documents on St Margaret as distinct from St Pelagia.

An attempt has been made, but without success, to prove that the group of legends with which that of Saint Margaret is connected is derived from a transformation of the pagan divinity Aphrodite into a Christian saint. The problem of her identity is a purely literary question.

The cult of Saint Margaret became very widespread in England, with more than 250 churches are dedicated to her. Believers consider her a patron saint of pregnancy.

Her cult was suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church in the 1969 reform of the liturgy, on the grounds that she did not in fact exist.

See:

  • 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.

Original text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica



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