As the only member of Scottish royalty to be made a saint, St. Margaret of Scotland is one of the most revered figures in Scottish history.

Sometimes called “The Pearl of Scotland”, she played a major part in shaping religious spaces in Scotland, helped establish Sunday as a day of rest and was instrumental in her time in enabling safe passage over the River Forth for pilgrims travelling to St Andrews - a feat now immortalised in the towns of North and South Queensferry and the modern bridge of the same name.  

She is also credited with inviting the first Benedictine monks to create a monastery at the site of a church - which became Dunfermline Abbey - and is also the namesake of Edinburgh’s oldest building - St Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle.

Born in Hungary, St. Margaret became Queen of Scots in 1070, and was renowned for her good influence on her husband, King Malcolm III, but also for her devout Christian piety and her charitable works towards the sick and poor while raising eight children of her own - three of which would become king.

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Yet, as one historian noted, despite remaining a powerful political symbol for hundreds of years, she survives in the modern Scottish consciousness as dedicatee of schools, hospitals and churches “without any immediate relevance or value as an icon of national identity”. 

Strangely, however, there are a handful of places in Latin America that have adopted the Scottish Queen as their patron saint - even though they appear to have no connection at all to Scotland.

One such place is the small town of El Fortín, situated in the Córdoba province in the Pampas region of Argentina, around 320 miles from Buenos Aires.

The town’s local chapel, Capilla Santa Margarita de Escocia (St. Margaret of Scotland Chapel), is dedicated to the Scottish Queen, while its 1,600-strong population celebrates its feast day and annual procession on November 16 -  the day St. Margaret died on November 16, 1093, at Edinburgh Castle.

The Herald: Colored engraving (by Diodore Rahoult) of Saint Margaret of Scotland (circa 1045 - 1093), Italy, 1886. Colored engraving (by Diodore Rahoult) of Saint Margaret of Scotland (circa 1045 - 1093), Italy, 1886. (Image: (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images))

In his detailed history of the chapel, local author and historian Rubén E. Pastore established that St. Margaret was named as patron of El Fortín when the chapel was blessed in March of 1929. 

Mr Pastore details that the Pochettino family, who were among those acting as sponsors of the ceremony, donated an image of St. Margaret to the chapel. He believes they could have chosen St. Margaret due to the name of the mother of what was “one of the most traditional families” of the time.  

The historian goes on to highlight the paradox that, despite a lack of any known connection between El Fortín and Scotland, ever since the blessing, Scotland’s presence in the town is ever-present. 

Mr Pastore wrote: “Almost like a paradox of destiny, this town that saw Italians, Spaniards, English, Germans, Dutch, South Americans pass through its streets, its fields and its rooms - especially in its first years - does not remember in popular memory or in the official records the presence of any Scots. However, since the very blessing of the Church, a Scottish woman lives among us: Saint Margaret.

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“Margaret was queen and saint, she lived in a country with a thousand-year history that has nothing in common with us - neither in its customs nor in its cultural roots - if it were not for our patron Saint.”

“Nor was much known about her, perhaps because, as happened with other things in our town, tradition was responsible for incarnating in the people a "Saint Margaret", simply, without delving too deeply into her life, religious work, miracles of the Queen of Scotland, who died on November 16, 1093, that is, just over nine centuries ago.”

The historian also noted how El Fortín isn’t alone in having adopted Saint Margaret as patron saint.

He added: “We, the people of Fortin, have the strange privilege of being - as far as is known, along with the city of Gálvez, in the Province of Santa Fe - one of the few towns in Latin America under the patronage of this Scottish Queen and Saint.”

The Herald: The small city of Gálvez in Santa Fe, ArgentinaThe small city of Gálvez in Santa Fe, Argentina (Image: CC)

Although Gálvez - located around 70 miles away from El Fortín - chose Saint Joseph as its first patron Saint in 1888, the story goes that a public consultation was held and St. Margaret was chosen "due to her generosity". 

Speaking as Gálvez celebrated its local festivities in honour of St. Margaret in 2022, Monsignor Sergio Fenoy said: “For some years now we have celebrated every November 16, the day of our Patron Saint "Saint Margaret of Scotland", it was not a coincidence, it was providence, choosing this Saint as the patron saint of our city, because in the face of infidelity, she appears as a faithful woman, in the face of the rejection of life she appears as a woman generous in life, and in the face of the world that lives thinking of destruction she appears with the construction and building of the Kingdom.”