2007 Archive Edition - See the Archive Notice on the Project Homepage for more information.
The life of St. Mary Magdalene is known only from gospel passages and has been greatly embellished by legend. She was among the female disciples of Christ, and He cast seven demons out of her. According to two gospel accounts of the crucifiction, she was present with Mary, the Mother of God, and another Mary. She was among the women bearing spices who came to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body and who learned from an angel that He had risen from the dead. She is called the apostle to the apostles because of her special charge to tell the other disciples of the resurrection. A popular scene in Mediaeval art and a gloriously touching story is her encounter with Christ near His grave: she does not recognize the man to whom she speaks until he calls her by her name.
Western church fathers associate Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, and with the sinful woman who anointed Christ's feet at the house of Simon the Pharisee. The latter misidentification led to her being made the patron of prostitutes and the establishment in Mediaeval Europe of Magdalene houses for the reformation of fallen women.
While the Eastern fathers rejected the idea that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Lazarus and/or the sinful woman, the Eastern church also has legends that Mary was a prostitute because of her frustrated love for St. John the Theologian. According to these stories, Mary reformed when she came to love Jesus as much as St. John did.
The place of her death is also disputed. Western legends say that she died in the Riviera, where several monasteries claimed to have her body. Eastern legends say that she died in Ephesus and her relics were translated to Constantinople in the late IX Century.
Karen Rae Keck
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