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Knowing the real Saint Mary Magdalene

Mary of Magdala, Mary Magdalene, the Magdalene: whatever you call her, she has been one of the most beloved Catholic saints for almost two millennia.

Artists have painted her portrait. Well, since she probably died in the first century AD, artists such as El Greco and Georges de la Tour have used their imaginations and the traditional symbols associated with her—a skull and less-than-modest clothing—to portray the sort of woman they think she might have been. Artists have also depicted her in paintings of the Crucifixion, where she generally appears weeping and penitent at Christ’s feet.

As is the case for many of the other people described in the Gospels who were Christ’s followers and traveling companions, churches have been dedicated to Mary Magdalene all over the world, from Rome to Arizona. An eighth century tradition that her remains had been discovered in France led to the building of a church which still contains her relics—even if it took a few centuries to finish the construction of the church and even if the relics had to be removed during the French Revolution for their safety.

Writers have written about Mary of Magdala over the centuries too. From Gnostic versions of the Gospels in the early days of the Church to pious legends of the Middle Ages and now to modern fiction, many authors have tried to bend her life story to match their own paradigms. For example, the followers of Gnosticism created their own versions of the Gospels to promote the idea of a “secret knowledge” that only their pantheistic sects possessed, and they put their heretical theology in Mary Magdalene’s mouth. The hagiography of the High Middle Ages embroidered the Gospel narrative with fanciful details about her, as well as other Gospel characters, in a pious but somewhat exaggerated style.

As for modern literature, a faithful Catholic would be better off reading The Da Vinci Hoax for an accurate understanding of her character than wasting time with the popular portrayal of the Magdalene in recent books and movies.

Read more at Catholic World Report

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