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Margaret of Antioch (c. 255–c. 275)

Margaret of Antioch (c. 255–c. 275)

Saint . Name variations: Marina of Antioch; Margarete or Margaret the Dragon Slayer; Maid of Antioch. Born at Antioch in Pisidia around 255 ce; beheaded around 275 at Antioch; daughter of Aedisius or Aedesius (a high-ranking pagan priest). Her feast day is July 20.

The legend of St. Margaret of Antioch, who is called St. Marina by the Greeks, came west with the crusades and survives in various interpretations. The daughter of a high-ranking pagan priest named Aedesius, Margaret was converted to Christianity by her childhood nurse and devoted her life to God at an early age. Her father, outraged by her conversion, drove her from the house, and she became a shepherd in the countryside. One day she captured the attention of the prefect Olybrius, who immediately wished to make her his bride, or, if she were a slave rather than a free woman, his concubine. He sent his servant to fetch her from the field for questioning. Upon meeting Olybrius, Margaret told him her name, and that she was of noble birth and a Christian, to which he responded that it was unworthy of her to "adore a crucified God." Whatever she said in reply made Olybrius so angry that he had her imprisoned. The next day when she was brought before an audience, she again infuriated the prefect with her statements of faith, and he retaliated by having her tortured. She was then returned to prison, where she performed a series of miracles, not the least of which was subduing a dragon which tried to devour her. (In a second version of the legend, she was swallowed by the dragon, whose body was then torn in two by her Christian faith, so that she emerged unscathed. In yet a third interpretation, she was additionally confronted by Satan whom she wrestled to the ground.) Unfortunately, neither the miracles nor her prayers could save her and she was beheaded.

In the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret of Antioch is depicted holding a cross and standing on the dragon, illustrating the power of Christianity over evil. In other images, she is shown wearing a string of pearls and holding daisies in her lap. It is also said that St. Margaret, along with St. Catherine of Alexandria , appeared to Joan of Arc , telling her to go to war for France.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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