Margaret of Cortona (1247–1297)

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Margaret of Cortona (1247–1297)

Saint and Franciscan nun . Name variations: "The Magdalene of Cortona." Born in Alviano (Laviano), near Chiusi, in Tuscany, in 1247; died in Cortona, in Tuscany, on February 22, 1297; children: (with the lord of Montepulciano) one son.

Believed to have been driven from her home at an early age by her stepmother, the young and beautiful Margaret of Cortona became the mistress of the lord of Montepulciano, with whom she lived for nine years, and with whom she had a son. When her lover was subsequently assassinated by robbers, Margaret was overcome by shock and contrition, and returned to her father's house hoping to find solace within the family fold. When she was turned away yet again, she took refuge in a neighboring vineyard where "a tempting demon" urged her to return to her wayward life. Margaret resisted, praying that God would come into her life to replace all that she had lost. It was then that she supposedly received the divine intervention that led her to the Franciscan convent in Cortona where, barefoot, with a rope around her neck, she begged to be admitted as a penitent into the order. Her reputation was such, however, that the brotherhood refused to admit her without a sign of her sincere repentance. Over the next three years, she lived an exemplary life of humility, charity, and purity, and was permitted to take the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis in 1272. It is related that one day as she prayed before the image of Christ, he bowed his head in compassion and forgiveness, and from that time on, she was regarded as "the Magdalene of Cortona." Margaret lived in divine grace until her death in 1297, after which she was buried in the Church of the Lowly Penitent, adjoining the convent. In a few extant pictures of the saint, who is little known outside of Tuscany, she is often depicted with a small dog, usually a spaniel, at her feet. The animal represents the pet dog which purportedly helped her locate the body of her slain lover. Her feast day is February 22.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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