This is the legend of a great saint, the blessed Saint Margaret of Antioch. A learned man named Theoteinus recorded her story to be passed down and remembered throughout the years.
Having been born in Antioch, the blessed Margaret’s mother died at an early age, and she was raised instead by a devout Christian nurse. Her father was a pagan priest, by the name of Theodosius.
Margaret came to learn about Christianity from her nurse, Theotimus, and as a result of her learning, she was converted and baptized. Much to her fathers despise, she renounced paganism and as a result she was disowned. As Theotimus had herself raised Saint Margaret, she later also adopted. After Saint Margaret’s baptism, she took a strict vow of chastity, which would shortly be put to the test.
The blessed Margaret lived among other maidens, and as they tended to their sheep a few miles from Antioch, a Roman prefect by the name of Olybrius passed by, and having seen her beauty, wanted to take her as his concubine. He arranged for his servants to go and bring Margaret to him, but upon receiving her name, status and religion, he was unhappy at Margaret being a Christian. Olybrius said: “The two first things be convenient to you, that is that you are noble and are called Margaret which is a most fair name. But the third appertains nothing to you that so fair a maid and so noble should worship a God crucified.” To whom she said: “How do you know that Christ was crucified?” He answered: “By the books of Christian men.” Margaret responded, in saying “O what shame it is to you when you read the pain of Christ and the glory, and believe one thing and deny the other.” Margaret agreed that Christ had been crucified, but by choice for our redemption. Outraged, Olybrius ordered that she be thrown in prison.
The following day, Olybrius had Margaret brought from prison, and tried to talk her into re-accepting paganism. He began to threaten her with torture if she didn’t, to which she responded, that she would gladly die for Christ. As she was tortured, those who witnessed it wept, and Olbyrius covered his face to not see the sight of so much blood, he then ordered that the torture stop and she be thrown back in prison.
It is said that whilst in prison, she prayed to God, that her enemy be made manifest, and at this request Satan himself appeared in the form of a dragon. Satan attempted to consume Margaret, but having made the sign of the cross, Satan was unable to consume her, and she broke free.
Saint Margaret was lead out in front of spectators, as she was tortured furthermore with burning torches and a cauldron of boiling water. These methods were in vain, as Margaret was unhurt by the torture, and the spectators themselves began to convert to Christianity upon seeing the saint produce such miracles.
After having witnessed the miracles of Saint Margaret and the converts she was winning at the hands of torture, she was sentenced to be beheaded under the reign of the emperor Diocletian, around the year 304AD.
Saint Margaret of Antioch became known as the saint of expectant mothers, nurses, women and peasants. She is celebrated in the Catholic and western churches on July 20th, whilst under the name Saint Marina in the eastern church, she is celebrated on July 13th. In 1969 however, the Vatican revised it’s calendar, and the feast day of Saint Margaret was removed, due to lack of historical evidence for her story.
Saint Joan of Arc later testified that one of the heavenly voices she heard, was that of Saint Margaret of Antioch, she has become known as one of the fourteen Holy Helpers. The story of Saint Margaret, was one of the most widely read accounts of sainthood in medieval Europe, with the book The Golden Legend, a detailed compilation of hundreds of hagiographies, telling her story.
Though parts of Saint Margaret’s story is thought to have been sensationalized, or apocryphal, her story still inspires millions of believers around the world today.