Santa Margarita de Cortona

Who was Santa Margarita de Cortona? By Cheri Roe

Santa Margarita (1247-1297) was born in Laviano, near Cortona, in the Province of Tuscany, Italy. She was a favorite patroness of Mallorca (Majorca), Spain, the birthplace of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) and the founder of our California Missions.

Four distinct histories of Saint Margarita are documented including that she was a virgin saint and a slayer of dragons. Also, she may have been a harlot redeemed.

But the most accepted history is that Margarita, as a young girl, with a wicked stepmother and an unsympathetic father, left home at a young age to make her life among 'strangers'. She was led astray by a nobleman, Arsenio from Montepulciano. He promised her marriage and she bore him a son. After nine years of living in great luxury, the marriage never materialized. Margarita passed as his wife but was living in sin. One fateful day, Arsenio went hunting but failed to return.

After three days, his hunting dogs returned, wanting to show her something. Margarita followed them to a place in the woods where she found Arsenio dead. The discovery filled Margarita with remorse about the state of her lover's soul and her own guilt for the sins she may have committed. Margarita returned to her native town, repented and made herself a public spectacle for everyone to see. Her evil stepmother and father were embarrassed and wouldn't let her live at home. Margarita journeyed to Cortona and was allowed to join the Third Order of Saint Francis. Her son was brought up by charitable women and later became a Franciscan friar. Margarita was canonized in 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII.

Another legend is that Fray Serra named the asistencia to honor his mother, Margarita.

This information has been edited from the book Santa Margarita de Cortona Asistencia by Msgr. Francis J. Weber. Publisher: Saint Francis Historical Society 2003. And from an undated newspaper article with Father Grech.