Saint Margaret of Cortona is the Saint Patron of the city of Cortona and all cortonesi adore her.
In the sanctuary dedicated to her, at the top of the hill, you can still see the Saint’s incorrupt body (as well as the XIII century’s cross where Christ appeared and talked to her – read her story here). A traditional festival is held at the sanctuary every year on February 22. The date is also a public holiday in the whole municipality of Cortona. Another (smaller) festival is held every year on a Sunday at the end of May.
The Festivity of Saint Margaret in Cortona, February 22
On February 22nd, the square in front of the church is full with food trucks and stalls selling panini with porchetta, brittle, brigidini and all sorts of candies. The case where Margherita’s body is kept has its gate opened and people line up next to the main altar to offer their tribute to the saint, see her, pray to her. Masses are held multiple times during the day.
There is a popular saying “Santa Margherita di fiori o di neve vuol esser vestita”, meaning St.Margaret wants to be dressed up either with flower or snow. On the day of the festivity in February, the weather can be very cold or it may give an anticipation of spring with sun and warm air… every year it’s either one option or the other, there is no inbetween!
Saint Margaret protecting the town of Cortona
Santa Margherita is also believed to have protected Cortona from the bombings during World War II, as when the aircrafts were about to fly above the town a thick cloud came down from the top of the hill and forced the militaries to give up their plans. Cortona’s bishop of the time, Mons. Franciolini, had made a vow to the Saint to preserve Cortona and after the war he honored his vow by commissioning the beautiful Via Crucis to the famous futurist artist from Cortona, Gino Severini.
We owe much to this little lady. She founded the town’s hospital which had her name and existed since the early 90s. Locally she is often compared to St. Francis of Assisi who also came to Cortona around the same period (link). She is such a great modern and positive figure, being the patron saint of the falsely accused, hoboes, homeless, insane, orphaned, mentally ill, midwives, penitents, single mothers, reformed prostitutes, stepchildren, and tramps.