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The Martyrdom of S. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire : (‡*CCT) Late C.13

Maiden Margrete/ Stood still as any stone/ And that loathly worm/ To her-ward gan gone/ Took her in his foul mouth/ And swallowed her flesh and bone/ Anon he brast - Damage hath she none!..’*
Photo:T.Marshall

After lengthy consideration I am certain that the female martyr suffering particularly grotesque tortures in the photograph at the left is S. Margaret of Antioch and not, as was once thought, S. Agatha or another female saint. On the wall immediately below her, and shown at the right below here, is another painting showing a segmented creature which is, I am sure, the remains of the dragon which swallowed the saint, and from whose bursting belly she eventually emerged. She is in fact shown doing precisely that here below in the photograph at the right, and the smaller black-and-white detail, with Margaret outlined, should make this clearer. All that remains of the dragon is the bony debris of its backbone, while below and to the right of it Margaret, leaning forward, comes out, her two rather spade-like hands (identical in shape to the hands of the figure standing above her at the far right) extended before her.

Margaret’s rounded head, face, slender arms and the hands already mentioned are also visible. It is not clear what the figure standing above the emerging Margaret, and his very faint companion at the left are doing, but they may be giving the death-blow to the dragon, since even mythological beasts might lash out when seriously wounded. What has misled previous commentators (and me too for a long time) is the torture scene paintedSt. Margaret emerging from the belly of the dragon (17KB) Martyrdom of S. Margaret, Duxford, detail, dragon with Margaret emerging (112KB) above it and shown at the top of this page, where the saint hangs suspended by her hair while torturers inflict wounds on her exposed breasts. It is certainly true that St Agatha, whose historical reality is attested to by St. Jerome and the martyrologist Venantius Fortunatus among others, did indeed have her breasts sliced off during tortures inflicted on her before her death in prison, and in some early Renaissance paintings she is shown carrying holding them on a dish before her.

But Agatha was not the only female saint to St Margaret of Antioch tortured at Little Kimble (18KB)have sex-specific atrocities inflicted on her. The much more dubiously historical (but much more commonly found) St. Margaret was tortured in various ingenious ways too, one of which involved her hanging by her hair, as in this painting of her tortures at Little Kimble in Buckinghamshire (a page on these is forthcoming). Margaret’s hair is wound around the crossbar above her exactly as at Duxford, and her torturers are paying particular attention to her naked breasts, of course, humiliation being after all an important component of torture.

St. Margaret is similarly suspended by her hair for torture in a very full series of paintings of her Life at Battle Church in Sussex, which I have yet to see, although Clive Rouse includes a photograph as Plate 65 of his Medieval Wall Paintings (Shire Publications, 4th edn.) As to the dragon, this particularly ‘loathly worm’ is closest in shape and spirit to that in the painting of St. Margaret at Charlwood in Surrey. The Warning to Sabbath Breakers in the church is already on the site, and there are other paintings at Duxford, including a very faint Crucifixion and Resurrection which I will try to include in these pages at a future update. But the confusion about Agatha/Margaret needed to be cleared up as soon as possible.

*From the metrical legend of St. Margaret in the Auchinleck MS, National Library of Scotland http://www.nls.uk/auchinleck/mss/mergrete.html. Quoted here from Anna Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, Vol.11, p.519.

St. Andrew Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Anne teaching the Virgin to read-Corby Glen, Lincolnshire St. Antony and the Pig, Barton, Cambridgeshire St. Barbara : Hessett, Suffolk St. Bartholomew : Selling, Kent St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Castor, Cambs St Catherine of Alexandria, Cold Overton, Leicestershire NEW St.Catherine of Alexandria : Hardley Street, Norfolk
St.Catherine of Alexandria : Old Weston, Northants St.Catherine of Alexandria : Pickering, N. Yorks St.Catherine of Alexandria, life of : Sporle, Norfolk St. Catherine of Alexandria, Martyrdom of: Burton Latimer, Northants NEW St. Catherine of Alexandria or another female saint : Ashley, Hampshire NEW St. Clement : South Leigh, Oxon. Scenes from the life of St. Cuthbert : Pittington, Co. Durham NEW St. Dunstan holding the Devil by the nose : Barton, Cambs
St.Edmund : Boxford, Suffolk St. Edmund : Lakenheath, Suffolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Bishopsbourne, Kent St.Edmund, Martyrdom of : Fritton, Norfolk St. Edmund (or St. Walstan) : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N.Yorks St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Troston, Suffolk
St. Edmund, Martyrdom of : Weare Giffard, Devon St.Eloi, Broughton, Bucks St. Eloi and the possessed horse, Slapton, Northants St. Eloi, as bishop & blacksmith, Wensley, N.Yorks St.Erasmus, Martyrdom of : Chippenham, Cambs St. Etheldreda : Willingham, Cambs St. Francis Preaching to the Birds : Little Kimble, Bucks St.Francis Preaching to the Birds : Wissington, Suffolk
St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, Slapton, Northants St. George & Dragon : Banningham, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Broughton, Bucks St. George & Dragon : Earl Stonham, Suffolk St. George & Dragon : Fritton, Norfolk St. George & Dragon : Hornton, Oxon St. George dedicating himself to the Virgin : Astbury, Cheshire St. George, with the princess : Little Kimble, Bucks
St. George & the Dragon : Kirtlington, Oxon NEW St.Helena, Broughton, Bucks St.James the Great : Hales, Norfolk Life of St. James, Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire St. James the Great, meeting pilgrims : Wisborough Green, Sussex St. James the Great, Yelden (or Yielden), Beds NEW St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Heydon, Norfolk
St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Idsworth, Hampshire St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Old Weston, Northants St. John the Baptist, Martyrdom of : Pickering, N. Yorks Life of St. John the Baptist : Cerne Abbas, Dorset St. John the Evangelist, Selling, Kent St. John the Evangelist, Weston Longville, Norfolk St. Margaret of Antioch : Old Weston, Northants St. Margaret and the dragon : South Newington, Oxfordshire
St. Margaret of Antioch Martyred, Stoke Dry, Rutland St. Margaret of Antioch, Life of : Charlwood, Surrey Life of St. Margaret, Wendens Ambo, Essex Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Duxford, Cambridgeshire Martyrdom of St. Margaret, Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire NEW St. Martin dividing his cloak, Chalgrave, Beds St. Martin dividing his cloak, Wareham, Dorset St Michael, with kneeling donor, South Newington, Oxfordshire
St.Nicholas of Myra, life of : Little Horwood, Bucks
St. Nicholas of Myra, two miracles of : Wissington, Suffolk St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the Barrel, Padworth, Berkshire St. Nicholas of Myra & the Boys in the barrel, Bishopsbourne, Kent NEW St.Paul : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Paul : Beckley, Oxon St. Paul : Selling, Kent St. Peter : Beckley, Oxon
St.Peter : Black Bourton, Oxon St. Peter, Martyrdom of : Chacombe, Northants St. Peter : Selling, Kent SS. Peter & Paul, Old Idsworth, Hampshire NEW St. Roch : Pinvin, Worcs St. Sexburga? : Willingham, Cambs S. Stephen, Martyrdom of, North Stoke, Oxon St. Stephen, Stoning of: Black Bourton, Oxon
St. Stephen, Stoning of: Catfield, Norfolk St.Swithun (?) enthroned : Old Weston, Northants Scenes from the life of St. Swithun : Corhampton, Hampshire St. Thomas Becket, blessing, Hauxton, Cambs. Archbishop, possibly Thomas Becket, blessing, Shorthampton, Oxfordshire NEW St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, Marston Magna, Somerset St. Thomas Becket, Murder of, North Stoke, Oxfordshire St.Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Burlingham, Norfolk
St. Thomas Becket, Murder of : South Newington, Oxfordshire St. Walstan of Bawburgh? or St. Edmund : Gisleham, Norfolk St. Zita : Horley, Oxon St. Zita : Shorthampton, Oxon Unidentified female saint : Heydon
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