Budapest – Margaret Island

The story of Saint Margaret of Hungary merits being heard. 

In 1242, Margaret is born to royal parents at a time when the Tatars were occupying Hungary.  While her destiny could have been one of rich nobility, her parents prayed that in exchange for the liberation of Hungary, they would give one of their heirs to devote his or her life to the church. 

When the Tatars finally retreated, the King Bela IV and his wife Mary Lascaris honored their promise to God.  Margaret was to be the one chosen to serve the church.  Before she realized what was going on, at the age of three, she was brought to a Dominican convent in Vesprem. 

Years later the royal couple had a Dominican convent on a Danube Island, at the time known as Rabbit Island.  

She was a very dedicated nun in the community.  At two occasions, her father tried to marry her and even tried to invalidate her vows, but on both occasions, she refused to leave her devoted religious life. 

In the Dominican convent, she volunteered for tasks that no one else would want to do.  She deprived herself of sleep and food and would self-mutilate.  She was asked to do humiliating work which she did willingly.  She would support the sick while neglecting herself.  She died at the age of 28, on January 18th 1270 – 750 years ago.  Her parents, since she refused to marry, rejected her and ignored to take any funeral arrangements and acknowledgement of her sacrifice and dedications. Other members of the community and her brother took action to have her recognized by the church. She has been credited for miracles and yet it was only in 1943 that she was canonized by Pope Pius XII.

Rabbit Island then was renamed Margaret Island.  This is where she spent most of her life.  Ruins of the convent where she lived can be visited.

The Danube runs on each side of the island.  To reach the island, you have two options: Margaret Bridge or Arpad Bridge. The Margaret Bridge is very close to the parliament.

Besides the ruins, the island now offers a green sanctuary, fountains, gardens, spa, pools, a water tower, a small zoo and more.  Don’t underestimate the walk though.  Cars have limited access, you may want to consider renting a bike. We did not and we totally deserved the break at one of the city baths. Palatinus was our stop and a perfect place for the kids.

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