The name of several martyr saints in the early Church. An early passio of St. Margaret is intimately related to a series of legends that had Pelagia of Antioch as their heroine. Probably a martyr of Antioch under Diocletian, Margaret (Marina in the East) quickly became the subject of a cult that spread throughout Christendom in the Middle Ages. One of the voices heard by joan of arc was that of Margaret. As one of the 14 helper saints, Margaret is prayed to in difficult childbirth (feast, July 20).
St. Ambrose (Patrologia Latina, 16:241, 1093) and St. John Chrysostom (Patrologia Graeca, 50:579–585) knew of the historical Margaret, or Pelagia, a 15-year-old virgin of Antioch who preserved her chastity from violation by jumping off a building. Mistakenly identified with this Margaret of Antioch was an actress, also known as Margaret, or Pelagia, who left a dissolute life to become a Christian penitent. So many legends were based upon the account of the actress's conversion that the true story of Margaret of Antioch has been distorted beyond recognition.
Bibliography: St. Margaret. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 3:152–153. h. delehaye, The Legends of the Saints, tr. d. attwater (New York 1962) 51, 56, 151. St. Margaret of Antioch. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 2:510–511; 4:59–61. h. delehaye, The Legends of the Saints, tr. d. attwater (New York 1962) 152–153.