MS H.8, fols. 189v–190r

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St. Margaret: Margaret and Olybrius

Hours of Henry VIII
Illuminated by Jean Poyer

France, Tours
ca. 1500
256 x 180 mm

Gift of the Heineman Foundation, 1977

MS H.8, fols. 189v–190r

St. Margaret: Margaret and Olybrius
Border: Margaret and the Dragon (fol. 189v)

Margaret was the daughter of Theodosius of Antioch, a third-century pagan prince. Shortly after Magaret's birth, her mother died, so her father placed her in the care of a countrywoman, a secret Christian who raised the young girl in that faith. Later, after Margaret's conversion was discovered, she was disowned and banished with her nurse from the palace. They lived in the country as shepherdesses.

One day Governor Olybrius of Antioch, as in the miniature, saw Margaret spinning wool while tending sheep and fell in love with her. Margaret's refusal to yield her faith angered the governor.

Olybrius ordered Margaret tortured and thrown into prison, where a fierce dragon appeared and swallowed her. The saint made the sign of the Cross, causing the dragon to explode, freeing her from its belly. She then prayed that women in labor invoking her name would be as safely delivered as she was from the dragon.

During the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, Margaret was most frequently shown guarding sheep; later the prison scene with the dragon (her primary attribute) became popular. (Feast day: formerly July 20)