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Investigating Mary Magdalen


Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe

Mary Magdalen in Provence

EXCERPT FROM: The Life of Mary Magdalen, from the Golden Legend (Legenda Aurea) (13th century) by Jacobus de Voragine

"There was that time with the apostles S. Maximin, which was one of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord, to whom the blessed Mary Magdalene was committed by S. Peter, and then, when the disciples were departed, S. Maximin, Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus her brother, Martha her sister, Marcelle, chamberer of Martha, and S. Cedony which was born blind, and after enlumined of our Lord; all these together, and many other christian men were taken of the miscreants and put in a ship in the sea, without any tackle or rudder, for to be drowned. But by the purveyance of Almighty God they came all to Marseilles, where, as none would receive them to be lodged, they dwelled and abode under a porch tofore a temple of the people of that country."

The Aurea Legenda then tells how Mary Magdalene miraculously helped a prince, his wife, and their son. The Legend continues:

"In this meanwhile the blessed Mary Magdalene, desirous of sovereign contemplation, sought a right sharp desert, and took a place which was ordained by the angel of God, and abode there by the space of thirty years without knowledge of anybody. In which place she had no comfort of running water, ne solace of trees, ne of herbs. And that was because our Redeemer did do show it openly, that he had ordained for her refection celestial, and no bodily meats. And every day at every hour canonical she was lifted up in the air of angels, and heard the glorious song of the heavenly companies with her bodily ears. Of which she was fed and filled with right sweet meats, and then was brought again by the angels unto her proper place, in such wise as she had no need of corporal nourishing."

According to this legend Mary Magdalene died in Aix in Southern France and was buried there by the Bishop Maximinus. Some of her remains later were taken to the French monastery of Vézelay, the church of which carried her name.