Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte Baume, France:
Shrine of Saint Mary Magdalene
About Mary Magdalene:
One of the more interesting characters in the scriptures, she was reputedly a great sinner. She repented of her sins, asked forgiveness and became one of Jesus’ greatest disciples. She has been portrayed as a prostitute, but many historians doubt this……..and there are some who feel that she was actually an early disciple of Jesus from the beginning of His ministry.
What we know for sure from the Gospel of John and Gospel of Saint Mark, was that she was the first person to see the empty tomb after the Resurrection, and then to see Our Lord, whom she mistook for a gardener. She is also believed to be one of the women who stayed at the foot of the cross during the Crucifixion after the apostles, with the exception of John, had deserted Him.
Although Jewish, she lived in a gentile area, in the town of Magdala, from which she undoubtedly got her name and had many of the customs and beliefs of the gentiles; moreover, she was guilty of many sins. Naturally the Jewish religious leaders would have been disapproving of Our Lord’s having anything to do with her. Nevertheless, she became one of the most ardent followers of Jesus. Hers is an excellent example of repentance as well as Our Lord’s forgiveness. Her role can be implied to be an important one…..as one of the leaders of the female disciples.
Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection:
According to tradition Mary Magdalene, her sister Martha, her brother Lazarus, Maximin (one of the 72 disciples) and about 70 other Christians, were sent out to die on a boat with no sails or oars. Our Lord helped guide the boat to a town that is now called Saint- Mary-of-the-Sea (close to Marseille). A gypsy took them in and cared for them.
From here the group scattered, and Mary Magdalene and Lazarus traveled to Marseille, where they preached Christianity to the native population. Later on, she settled in a cave in Saint Baume. She worked to convert the pagans of the area. Then in her final days she came down to be near Maximin (who had originally baptized her) and, after receiving communion from him, she died peacefully in his arms.
About the Shrine of Saint Mary Magdalene:
Earlier it was believed that the remains of Mary Magdalene were at Vezelay; however, in 1279 when a Dominican convent at La Sainte-Baume was constructed, that changed. In that year, Charles II of Naples, nephew of King Saint Louis, discovered the relics of Mary Magdalene during excavations in the basement of the church of Saint-Maximin-de-la-Sainte-Baume. He uncovered several sarcophagi dating from the 4th century, one of which was proclaimed to be the tomb of Mary Magdalene. It even had an explanatory inscription stating why the relics had been hidden. The local Dominican monks soon recorded many miracles credited to Saint Mary Magdalene from those who sought her intercession.
The Shrine offers daily Masses as well as reconciliation. There is also a gift shop here.
We celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Mary Magdalene on July 22.
Traveling to Sainte-Baume:
The shrine is located on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, about 30 miles Northeast of Marseille. High-speed TGV trains whisk you from Paris to Marseille in about 3 1/2 hours. You can also get a train to Aix-en-Provence. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here
From the train station it is about 35 miles to the Shrine.
Address: 2200, CD 80 Route de Nans 83640 Plan-d’Aups-Sainte-Baume, France
GPS coordinates: 43° 19′ 34.8312” N, 5° 45′ 50.2560” E
Tel: +33 (0) 4 42 04 54 84
You might also want to combine your visit here with nearby Cotignac, site of apparitions of both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.
You can stay at Hostellerie de la Sainte-Baume, which is a religious house run by Dominican Sisters and open to all, or find hotels, B&B’s & restaurants in Sainte Baume, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor