A gilded silver pilgrim badge of St Margaret and the dragon. It depicts St Margaret standing on the dragon, thrusting a cross into its mouth. It dates to 1400 – 1550. It is currently going through the Treasure process.
St Margaret of Antioch
The story goes that St Margaret was born in Antioch in Pisidia in c304 and was tortured for refusing to renounce Christianity. During this torture she performed several miracles.
One of these involved being swallowed by a dragon from which she escaped by irritating its innards with her cross. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says her story is “generally regarded to be fictitious” and even a 13th Century historian considered it to be too fantastic.
None of this should stop a good cult following. In 1222, the Council of Oxford added her to a list of feast days and her popularity grew. More than 250 churches are dedicated to her in England.
Several St Margaret and the dragon pilgrim badges made from flat lead alloy have been recorded at the PAS. These tend to be concentrated in Lincolnshire, possibly associated with a cult centre at St Margaret’s church in Ketsby. This church disappeared before the middle of the 19th century but was a place of pilgrimage where an image of St Margaret was still receiving offerings in the mid 16th century.
St Margaret in Norfolk
This badge is unusual as it is gilded silver and was found in Norfolk. There are several churches dedicated to St Margaret in the county.
In Norwich’ St Helen’s Church is a medieval pew end depicting St Margaret emerging from the dragon.