The Catholic Travel Guide
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. We know from the Gospel of John and Gospel of Saint Mark 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 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 as a can be implied to be an important one as one of the leaders of the female disciples.
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. 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:
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. On the 12th of December that year the discovery in crypt of Saint-Maximin, of a sarcophagus that 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.
Her feast day is celebrated on July 22.
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. From there it is about 35 miles to the Shrine. If you are driving just follow the signs.
There are also several hotels in the village.
You might also want to combine your visit here with nearby Cotignac, site of apparitions of both the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph.