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Envisioning a Saint: Visions in the Miracles of Saint Margaret of Scotland

Chapter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Miracle collections reflect two groups’ perspectives: those receiving and those recording the miracles. Thus, they offer insight into the processes of collective remembrance. Memory is inherently collective, as outlined in the introduction, involving communal decisions regarding the inclusion or omission of points of remembering. In miracle collections, supplicants receive supernatural aid in a way that is socially recognized and valued. Those recording the miraculous events then sift through these accounts, selecting which to document and determining how to relate them. The result is a coded map of memories that, as Aviad Kleinberg notes, forgets the saint of reality in order to create an image of the saint that is comfortably recognizable to those constructing her memory.1 The historical Margaret of Scotland (d. 1093) is hardly represented in her miracle collection. Daughter of the royal Anglo-Saxon house, wife of King Malcolm III of Scotland, and mother to three kings of Scotland and a queen of England, she is portrayed primarily as the supernatural protector of both her dynasty and the abbey housing her shrine.2 The saint identifies herself in the many visions included in her miracle collection not as a wife, mother, sister, or even saint but as the queen of her people: “Ego sum Margarita, Scotorum regina.” The number of visions of the saint and the frequency with which she introduces herself are unusual and, upon closer examination, provide clues to the collective mnemonic preferences of the community constructing her memory.

Keywords

Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century British Library Beautiful Woman Bodleian Library 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Aviad M. Kleinberg, Prophets in Their Own Country: Living Saints and the Making of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992), 148.Google Scholar
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    The Life of St Margaret was written probably by Turgot, the prior of Durham (1093–1109) and bishop of Saint Andrews (1109–1115), in the decade after her death in 1093. It exists in three manuscript versions: British Library Cotton Tiberius Diii, composed at the end of the twelfth century; British Library Cotton Tiberius Eiii, rescinded in the first quarter of the fourteenth century; and a version that exists in the same manuscript as the miracle collection, Madrid, Biblioteca Real II 2097 fos. 1v–17v, which I have translated in the appendix to my PhD dissertation, “Saint Margaret, Queen of the Scots: Her Life and Memory” (Central European University, 2010). A printed version similar to the Cotton Tiberius Diii manuscript derived from a now lost manuscript at the Cistercian abbey of Vaucelles in northern France is found in Acta Sanctorum, vol. 1 for June 10 (Brussels and Antwerp: Societé des Bollandistes, 1966) and translated by W. M. Metcalfe in Ancient Lives of Scottish Saints, Part Two (1895; repr., Felinfach, UK: Llanerch Publishers, 1998), 45–69.Google Scholar
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© Margaret Cotter-Lynch and Brad Herzog 2012

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