ISBN : 9780197265963
This is the first comprehensive interdisciplinary study of the cult of St Margaret of Antioch in medieval England. Margaret was one of the most famous female saints of both the Catholic world and of Eastern Christianity (where she was known as St Marina). Her legend is remembered for her confrontation with a dragon-shaped devil, who allegedly swallowed Margaret and then burst asunder. This episode became firmly established in iconography, making her one of the most frequently represented saints. Margaret was supposedly martyred in the late 3rd century, but apart from the historically problematic legend there is no evidence concerning her in other contemporary sources. The sudden appearance of her name in liturgical manuscripts in the late 8th century is connected with the dispersal of her relics at that time. The cult grew in England from Anglo-Saxon times, with over 200 churches dedicated to Margaret (second only to Mary among female saints), and hundreds of images and copies of her life known to have been made. The book examines Greek, Latin, Old English, Middle English and Anglo-Norman versions of Margaret's live, their mouvance and cultural context, providing editions of the hitherto unpublished texts. By considering these versions, the iconographic evidence, their patronage and audience, the monograph traces the changes of St Margaret's story through the eight centuries before the Reformation. The book also considers the further trajectory of the legend as reflected in popular fairy-tales and contemporary cultural stereotypes. Special attention is given to the interpretation of St Margaret's demonic encounter, central to the legend's iconography and theology.