Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Saint Margaret of Cortona, "A Second Magdalene"

Margaret of Cortona (died 22 February 1297)

                           Saint Margaret of Cortona,
               detail from a late thirteenth-century painting,
                      Museo Diocesano, Cortona, Italy
A wild and spoiled child, a willful and "dissolute" young woman, Margaret of Cortona left home at the age of seventeen in order to live as the mistress of a wealthy young man.

She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, but her lover, the child's father, was murdered. A distraught Margaret tried to return home, only to find that her father would not receive her.

She then devoted her life to prayer and penance, finding a home among the Franciscans. Her son eventually became a friar, Margaret joining the Third Order of Saint Francis, a lay penitential order devoted to a life of poverty, prayer, and penance.

In 1277 Margaret of Cortona experienced the first of a series of visions of Jesus, who addressed her first as la poverella, ultimately as "my child." Among her many works on behalf of the poor and unfortunate, she helped to establish a hospital for the impoverished and sick in Cortona and gathered together a group of dedicated nurses to work in the hospital.

Margaret of Cortona was canonized in 1728.

The Franciscan Institute has published a biographical/devotional book, The Life and Miracles of Saint Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)--while not a scholarly work, it may still be of interest for its treatment of Margaret of Cortona's life. This is the best of quite a number of devotional appreciations of the saint. You may also be interested in Saint Margaret of Cortona, a novel by the great French writer and Nobel Prize winner (in Literature, 1952) Fran├žois Mauriac.

The Basilica of St. Margaret's, Cortona