Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume

“When she poured the perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.  I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Matt 12:12-13

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In 2013 Marie and I visited a small town just east of Marseille, FR called Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume.  Our purpose was to explore the grotto of Mary Magdalene.

The little town was transformed by the well-published discovery, 12 December 1279, in the crypt of Saint-Maximin, of a sarcophagus that was proclaimed to be the tomb of Mary Magdalene and by the ensuing pilgrim-drawing cult of Mary Magdalene and St Maximin.

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The legend goes that after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, her brother Lazarus and Maximin, (one of the seventy disciples mentioned in Luke 10: 1-24) left the Holy Land by boat to escape persecution.  They landed at Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer further west near Arles, FR.  Mary Magdalene went to Marseille to convert the local people and then retired to a cave in the St. Baume mountains.  She was buried in St. Maximin where her relics are reputed to be.  (Other reputed resting places for her relics are in Vezelay, FR and Ephesus, TR.)

We hiked up a steep path and made our way into an underground grotto buried in the mountain.  There was an altar, statues and water dripping down.  If this is where Mary Magdalene finished her life it was certainly not very fancy.

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The panoramic view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking.  We slowly returned down the path stopping to chat with a friend along the way.

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We retired to Saint-Maries-de-la-Mer for dinner and caught the Fête Votive Camargue parade going right by our table.  We felt very nourished by the history, beauty and reverence of this pilgrimage outing.  France is a gorgeous place to visit anytime.  For the detailed account of the Marys that came here and how the story has changed over the years, click here.

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