Relics of St Mary Magdalene

This is the magnificent church of Vezelay in France, where you may venerate the relics of St Mary Magdalene. More pictures and information here. However, just as controversy surrounds her true identity and which stories relate to her in the gospels, so her relics are disputed and surrounded with legend and contradictory stories. Some say Mary Magdalene ended her days in Ephesus with St John and the Blessed Virgin. Some say her relics were removed from there to Constantinople.

The pious legends that associate her with France say that Mary Magdalene, along with Lazarus and his sisters, escaped persecution and washed up on the shores of Gaul. Mary Magdalene evangelized parts of France and spent her final days living in a cave in Provence. Her relics were venerated first at Vezelay, after being moved there from the oratory of St Maximin in Aix-en-Provence. Later St Maximin-la Sainte Baume claimed her relics were there and you can see what is puported to be her skull in the Basilica of St Maximin. It is apparalled in a red wig.

In the 17th century the Protestants destroyed the Benedictine Abbey at Vezelay and turned the church into a stable and destroyed the relics. The relics of St Mary Magdalene which are there now were given to the church after its restoration.

Where are the bones of St Mary Magdalene? Like most relics, they are probably in many places. that is what they did with relics: distributed them for veneration. The relics in the crypt at Vezelay may be fragments of the relics that were there earlier and preserved through the persecutions, or they may be fragments of relics that were distributed. More an St Mary Magdalene here.

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  • Arnold Conrad

    I had the privilege of visiting the magnificent Church of the Medelaine at Vezelay some years ago. The French rightly consider it one of the most beautiful churches in the country, and that says a lot! It is a superb example of both the Romanesque and Gothic styles. The portal and front section is Romanesque while the altar area and apse are in the purest Gothic style. The Communities of Jerusalem relatively replaced the Benedictines, who formerly occupied the abbey. It sits on a prominent hill with the town of Vezelay "cascading" down the hillside. By the way, the Communities of Jerusalem is a fast growing quasi monastic group that started in the church of St.Gervais in Paris, where its Masses are celebrated in the Roman Rite in French but with their own unique polyphonic chant patterned after Byzantine chant (or so it sounds to me). Over the past decade or so, they have expanded to the abbeys in Vezelay and Mont St. Michel, plus Aix-en-Provence and most recently, the Roman church of Trinita dei Monte (sp?). at the Spanish Steps. Their Sunday Eucharistic liturgies are very solemn and beautiful with a predominantly youthful congregation and young families. I once experienced an Easter Sunday Mass at St. Gervais where three priests concelebrated and chanted the Eucharistic Prayer in three-part harmony.