The History of Leith

December 9, 2011

The Strange story of the remains of St Margaret

St Margaret was worshipped without authority until 1250 or 1251 when she was canonized by Innocent IV who ordered her sacred body to be translated from its first tomb. On July 19, 1297, all the arrangements being made the men who were appointed to raise the body, found it impossible to do so; stronger men were ordered to lift it and tried in vain; still more men were brought, but all their strength was unavailing. Evidently the saint objected to what was being done. The clergy and all present prayed earnestly that the mysterious opposition might cease and the sacred rite be completed. After some time an inspiration was granted to a devout member of the congregation; namely, that the saint did not wish to be separated from her husband. As soon as they began to take up his coffin, that of his dutiful wife became quite light and easy to move, and both were laid on one bier and translated with ease to the honorable place prepared for them under the high altar.

In 1693 Innocent XII transferred Margaret’s festival from the day of her death to June 10, though November 16 is still the day celebrated in Scotland. The bodies are said to have been acquired by Philip II, king of Spain, who placed them in the church of St. Lawrence in his new palace of the Escorial in two urns. The head of St. Margaret, after being in the possession of her descendant, Queen Mary Stuart, was secreted for many years be a Benedictine monk in Fife; thence it passed to Antwerp, and about 1627 it was translated to the Scotch college at Douai and there exposed to public veneration. It was still to be seen there in 1785; it was well preserved and had very fine fair hair. Neither the heads, the bodies nor the black rood can now be found, but the grave of Margaret may still be seen outside the present church of Dunfermline. Her oratory in Edinburgh castle is a small church with sturdy short pillars and a simple but beautiful ornamental pattern at the edge of its low rounded arches. It was falling to ruin when, in 1853, Queen Victoria had it repaired and furnished with colored glass windows.


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