Short Lives of the Dominican Saints – Blessed Margaret of Savoy, Widow

Article

(A.D. 1382-1464)

Blessed Margaret was the daughter of Amadeus II, Prince of Piedmont, of the House of Savoy, and was born about A.D. 1382. Her remarkable beauty and virtue caused her hand to be eagerly sought by many illustrious suitors; it was granted about A.D. 1403 to the Marquis of Montserrat, as a means of consolidating the peace which had recently been made between the Italian princes. He was worthy of his saintly consort, and acquired among his contemporaries the honourable title of Theodore the Religious. Their life together exhibited a bright example of every virtue which could adorn their lofty station. They were animated to yet greater fervour and more munificent liberality to the Church and the poor by the preaching of Saint Vincent Ferrer, under whose direction Blessed Margaret commenced the practice of severe but secret austerity and of almost continual prayer.

Her husband dying in the fifteenth year of their married life, Blessed Margaret immediately consecrated herself to the King of Heaven by a vow of perpetual chastity, and retired into private life in the city of Alba. Here she gave herself up entirely to exercises of charity and devotion. The fame of her beauty and virtue induced many princes, and amongst others Philip Visconti, Duke of Milan, to seek her in marriage, but she firmly rejected all such overtures, assigning as her reason the vow by which she had bound herself. The Duke of Milan, however, would take no refusal; and, having obtained from the Pope an ample dispensation from the vow, pressed his suit with renewed earnestness. Margaret was in no way affected by these embassies, and replied with the same firmness as before that she sought for no dispensation from her voluntary vow to be the Spouse of none but God, and that she trusted in the Duke’s charity not further to disturb her retirement. In order to assume a character which should effectually protect her from all such solicitations for the future, she took the habit of the Third Order, by the counsel of her former director, Saint Vincent, who, having now departed to a better life, appeared to her in a vision to comfort and advise her. Many noble ladies joined her in her retirement, and together they devoted themselves to works of mercy and piety.

Blessed Margaret was soon attacked by a painful malady, which almost shook her patience. But our Blessed Lady visited her on her sick-bed to encourage her to resignation, and our Lord Himself appeared to her, surrounded by a multitude of angels, holding in His hand three darts inscribed with the words : Calumny, Sickness, and Persecutions, bidding her choose amongst them. The servant of God abandoned herself wholly to His Divine will, and He left her with all three, which she received and lovingly embraced, as the vision vanished from her sight. Very soon its fulfillment was seen in the accumulation of trials of each kind which poured in upon her. The calumnies proceeded chiefly from the court of the Duke of Milan, who accused her to the Pope of trying to revive the heresy of the Waldenses. The only effect of these trials on Blessed Margaret was to increase her desire to give herself wholly to God. She accordingly built a Convent at Alba, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen, in which she and her companions made their solemn profession, forming in all an enclosed Community of sixty, a Dominican Father of the name of Manfred being appointed their Apostolic Vicar and Superior, and Blessed Margaret herself becoming the first Prioress.

In this capacity it was her earnest endeavour to preserve the true spirit of religious observance amongst those committed to her care, and God gave her a wonderful insight into the souls of her spiritual children. Thus, one Sister who had borne the reputation of a Saint happening to die, the Community were in great grief and loud in their expressions of admiration for the holiness of the deceased religious. Blessed Margaret, however, put small trust in the appearance of sanctity which had so successfully imposed upon others. She felt an inward doubt even as to the salvation of this soul; and, as she was praying to God for the discovery of the truth, the deceased sister appeared to her and declared herself eternally lost, all her good works having been performed out of a desire of human praise. Then, stooping to the ground, the miserable creature took up a handful of dust which she threw into the air, exclaiming: “Such were my actions!” and then disappeared.

Blessed Margaret worked many miracles, curing the sick, multiplying the provisions of the Convent, and calming by her prayers a horrible tempest which threatened to destroy the city of Alba. When the storm ceased, the voices of the evil spirits were heard in the air, cursing her by name for having frustrated their malignant designs. Two days before her happy death, she desired the Sisters to lift her out of bed and lay her prostrate on the ground at the feet of our Lord. They complied with her desire, though they themselves could see nothing. Then the cell became radiant with celestial light and a sweet harmony announced the presence of the angelic choirs and of our Divine Lord Himself, whom Blessed Margaret adored with expressions of the most ardent love. These heavenly harmonies were heard also on the following day, which was the Feast of Saint Cecilia. As the dying servant of God received the Last Sacraments, an unknown religious was observed supporting her, who was believed to be Saint Catharine of Siena. At her death, which took place on November 23, A.D. 1464, the bell tolled of itself, and woke up the citizens of Alba, many of whom beheld a resplendent procession of Saints, bearing lighted torches in their hands, directing their steps towards the Convent. Many miracles ensued, and Blessed Margaret was finally beatified by Clement X.

Prayer

O God, who didst teach Blessed Margaret to forsake with all her heart the pomps of this world for the humble following of Thy Cross, grant that, by her merits and example, we may learn to tread under foot the perishable delights of the world, and in the embraces of Thy Cross to overcome all adversities. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

MLA Citation

  • A Sister of the Congregation of Saint Catherine of Siena. “Blessed Margaret of Savoy, Widow”. Short Lives of the Dominican Saints, 1901. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 November 2013. Web. 20 September 2018. <>