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Saturday Art: Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, by He Qi

Mary Magdalene represents the ebb and flow of misogyny in western society, mostly flowing these days, don’t you think? My Sunday School image of her was the fallen woman but now I doubt that. Of course we can never know the real truth.

James Carroll’s Smithsonian’s 2006 look back at Mary Magdalene through the ages recirculates again this Easter:

Who Was Mary Magdalene?

From the writing of the New Testament to the filming of The Da Vinci Code, her image has been repeatedly conscripted, contorted and contradicted

The whole history of western civilization is epitomized in the cult of Mary Magdalene. For many centuries the most obsessively revered of saints, this woman became the embodiment of Christian devotion, which was defined as repentance. Yet she was only elusively identified in Scripture, and has thus served as a scrim onto which a succession of fantasies has been projected. In one age after another her image was reinvented, from prostitute to sibyl to mystic to celibate nun to passive helpmeet to feminist icon to the matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty. How the past is remembered, how sexual desire is domesticated, how men and women negotiate their separate impulses; how power inevitably seeks sanctification, how tradition becomes authoritative, how revolutions are co-opted; how fallibility is reckoned with, and how sweet devotion can be made to serve violent domination—all these cultural questions helped shape the story of the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth

You haters can hate, but I enjoyed the fun ride that was The Da Vinci Code. IT WAS A NOVEL for chrissake. Before I read the book, I never knew of the legends dating back to the 600s that Mary Magdalene retired (as it were) to the South of France after the Crucifixion. Supposedly that’s her skull in the basilica in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume.

Outside Aix-en-Provence, in the Var region in the south of France, is a medieval town named Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. Its basilica is dedicated to Mary Magdalene; under the crypt there is a glass dome said to contain the relic of her skull.

If I were the Queen of the World, I’d insist a facial reconstruction be done (if it even is a female skull) and her DNA sequenced, for whatever that would tell us.

The Many Faces of Mary Magdalene

You can’t deny she was one of of the all-time great muses in art. Happy Holidays everyone, however you celebrate this time of year, may it be in Peace.

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