July 17, 2018

How Saint Marina Became Known as Saint Margaret in the West

There was a divergence in the veneration of Saint Marina in Eastern and Western Christianity, which culminated in the adoption in the Western tradition of the new name of the Great Martyr from Antioch - Margaret. The adoption of this new name has a long history. Already in 494 Pope Gelasius I declared her life apocryphal. West European scholars claim that her ancient liturgical veneration did not exist, and that her first hagiographic mention dates back to the 9th century (Martyrology of Rabanus Maurus).

The actions of Pope Gelasius were not applied in the East. Instead her veneration grew in the East and all inscriptions of her icons bear the name "Marina". In the 8th century the Roman Empress Maria, wife of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, had part of the relics of Saint Marina transferred to Constantinople, where they were kept in the Pantocrator Monastery till 1204, when the city was taken by the Crusaders. In 1213 John de Borea took a portion of the relics of Saint Marina from Constantinople, and on the reliquary it said "Relic of Saint Marina" - in the 17th century this relic was seen in Venice in the church dedicated to her name (in the 19th century this relic was moved to the Church of Saint Thomas in the same city). Another portion of her relics were brought to Italy from Antioch in 908, and they were laid in Montefiascone of Tuscany.

At some stage in Western hagiographic history, the Latin name "Marina", which in English means "of the sea" or "maritime", was translated into Greek with the name "Margaret", which in English translates to "pearl". This name was probably given to her for her beauty and nobility. However, "Marina" is really the Latin equivalent of the Greek "Pelagia". Saint Pelagia, according to the Life of Saint Pelagia by James the Deacon of Heliopolis, had been known as "Margarita" or "Margaret" ("pearl"). Since both Saints Marina and Pelagia were from Antioch (Marina came from Antioch in Pisidia as opposed to Antioch of Syria where Pelagia was from), some have tried to identify them as the same person. Saint Pelagia was born with the name Pelagia, then became known as Margarita when she became a prostitute, but then baptized with her birth name of Pelagia. This may indicate that "Margaret" was an epithet for a prominent woman named either Pelagia or Marina. Or it could mean that the lives of Saints Marina and Pelagia were confused in the West by some and they simply called her by the name Margaret as it appears in the Life of Saint Pelagia.

Though the basic story of the life of Saint Marina remains the same, in the West certain additions are made, which later make it to the East as well, though these differences are fairly minor. With a similar life story, the Saint from a certain moment begins to be called in different parts of Europe under different names: closer to the south and east she is still known with her original name Marina, and in the West and North she becomes known as Margaret.

The Great Schism of 1054, that is, the division of Christians into Orthodox and Catholics, which regionally was East and West, further strengthened the name differentiation, and until the end of the 20th century, the western name of Margaret was not recognized by Orthodox Christians, and they were baptized at birth with the name of Saint Marina. In the world of non-Orthodox Europe, the name Marina was traditionally popular in Mediterranean Italy and in Slavic Poland (for example, Marina Mnishek).