Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume lies in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France and is named after Mary Magdalene. The Basilica houses the skull believed to belong to the saint. This small town became a place of pilgrimage following the discovery of a sarcophagus in the crypt of Saint-Maximin that was proclaimed to be the tomb of Mary Magdalene in 1279. Charles II of Anjou, King of Naples and Count of Provence, founded the massive Gothic Basilique Ste. Marie-Madeleine in 1295.
It is said that Mary Magdalene fled the Holy Land by boat with neither rudder nor sail and landed at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue near Arles. She then went to Marseille and converted the local people. Later in life she retired to a cave in the Sainte-Baume mountains where she lived in penance until she died. This was known as the grotto, or La Baume of Mary Magdalene.
On the feast of Mary Magdalene, July 22nd, there is a procession in the town and a golden mask of Mary Magdalene is carried around the streets in her honour.
Mary Magdalene came from Magdala, a fishing village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel of Luke 8:2-3 lists Mary as one of the women who traveled with Jesus and helped support his ministry “out of their resources”, indicating that she was probably relatively wealthy. Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches—with a feast day of July 22nd.
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