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Margaret of Cortona, St.


Franciscan tertiary, penitent; b. Laviano, 1247 (?); d. Cortona, Italy, Feb. 22, 1297. At the age of sixteen Margaret fled an unhappy family life to live for nine years as the mistress of a nobleman of Montepulciano. Upon his death, she returned to Cortona with her young son and put herself under the guidance of the Franciscans. Abandoning her son (who later became a Franciscan) to charity, she was allowed to join the Third Order of Penance of St. Francis in 1275. The major source for her life is the Legenda de vita et miraculis beatae Margaritae de Cortona written by her confessor, the friar Giunta of Bevegnati. It consists in ten chapters depicting the life and virtues of the saint, as well as one chapter dedicated to the miracles she performed while she was still alive and after her death. There is no doubt that the Legenda follows the typology of the classic hagiographical genre, which makes it difficult to sort out fact from fiction. It was meant to present Margaret as a "new Mary Magdalene" and provide a complete program of Christian living in particular for Franciscan lay women for whom she was set up as a model. She no doubt lived a harsh ascetical life and was gifted with exceptional mystical graces. She was also involved in peace-making activities and is credited with founding a hospital for the poor. Pope Benedict XIII canonized her on May 16, 1728. Her incorrupt body is venerated in her church at Cortona.

Feast: Feb. 22.

Bibliography: f. iozelli, ed., Legenda de vita et miraculis beatae Margaritae de Cortona (Grottaferrata 1997). t. renna, St. Margaret of Cortona intro. and trans. (St. Bonaventure, NY 2001). e. menestÒ, "La mistica di Margherita da Cortono," in Temi e problemi nella mistica feminile trecentesca (Todi 1983), 183206. r. rusconi, "Margherita da Cortona, Peccatrice redenta e patrona citadina," in Umbria sacra e civile (Turino 1989), 89104. j. cannon and a. vauchez, Margherita of Cortona and the Lorenzetti: Sienese Art and the Cult of a Holy Woman in Medieval Tuscany (Philadelphia 2000).

[p. lachance]

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