November 16 – Hypatius of Gangra; Margaret of Scotland

Hypatius of Gangra (d. 326) was bishop of Gangra (modern Çankırı, Turkey), and a staunch ally of Contra Mundum of Alexandria (Athanasius for you squares). During the time of Emperor Constantius II (reigned 337–361) (hey, dates in hagiographies don’t have to make sense), an immense snake made its nest in the imperial treasury. Hypatius’ reputation as a wonderworker was known far and wide, so he was called for. The emperor made an obeisance, and laid out the issue. “May it be done to you according to your faith,” Hypatius said.

Hyp had an oven built in the Hippodrome, with a fire in it and everything. He took his bishop’s staff (I mean his staff of bishophood, not the staff of his bishop, since he was his bishop, so to speak), walked boldly into the treasury, and thwacked the crafty beast on the head repeatedly. The Emperor and his staff (no pun intended) (okay, I’ll admit it, pun intended) looked on in horror, in amazement, and in the room just outside. Hypatius then shoved his staff in the serpent’s mouth and said, “You come with me.” The snake held on with his teeth, and Hypatius carried him to the door of the oven. “In you go,” he said, and the snake coiled up and leapt into the fire. You can imagine a cheer went up from the crowd, because it seems likely and I’m feeling generous.

Sadly Hypatius was murdered while walking home from the Council of Nice (not to be confused with the nice council, which is just a legend). He was dry-gulched in a wet gulch by a pack of roving Arians, and thrown into a swamp. A woman with an enormous rock gave him one swift thwack to the head, and that was all she wrote. But it wasn’t all she thwacked; she immediately went mad and started hitting herself on the head repeatedly. She was finally healed when she was carried to the saint’s grave (after he was buried, of course); this was the first of many miracles his relics wrought. Hypatius was a great favorite of the Russian people, and is the namesake of the famous Ipatiev Monastery, transliteration being an inexact science.

Margaret of Scotland (1045–1083) was born in Hungary to an English prince’s wife (descendent of Roman emperors) while her parents were in exile, and returned for the first time to England at the age of twelve. She watched the construction of the original Westminster Abbey by Edward the Confessor and the destruction of the original English monarchy by William the Bastard (erm, Conqueror), then fled with her mother and siblings to Scotland.

Malcolm, successor of the usurper Scottish Play, was immediately kindled with love or lust or something for the beautiful Margaret. With a wistful backwards glance at her plans for nunhood, Margaret married him and set about to make him a respectable Christian. She taught him to pray, to have mercy on the poor, and to love Hungarian beer. (I made that last one up.) He was baptized, of course, and held her in awe, allowing himself to be molded by her “like wax in her hands,” according to one source. She also molded Scotland, stamping out ecclesiastical abuses, ransoming slaves, restoring Iona, and creating a school for women to learn the fine art of making ecclesiastical vestments. (Scottish women had been dying to learn that art for centuries, but nobody would teach them.)

Margaret (sometimes called “The Pearl of Scotland”) (no points for guessing why) lived an ascetic life, attending multiple masses daily, waiting on poor people preprandially, eating frugally, and in general being about as nunlike as you can whilst molding a kingdom and raising kids. When her husband and eldest son were killed in battle against the wicked Normanified English, the shock of the news may have killed her—she died three days after hearing it. Her relics were lost in the Scottish Reformation (as were a lot of other things). She is one of the patron saints of Scotland.