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

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


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.


Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century British Library Beautiful Woman Bodleian Library 
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