Skull of Mary Magdalene

Skull of Mary Magdalene


The skull of Mary Magdalene can be found in the South of France in the once Gallo Roman town of Villa Latta or Tégulata, which after the death of Maximin (one of Jesus’ seventy-two disciples), became St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume.

The skull of Mary Magdalene rests most of the year in the crypt of the Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine, a massive Gothic basilica whose construction began in 1295 under Charles II of Anjou, King of Naples, Count of Provence and nephew of St. Louis (King of France). It was on this ground, that Mary Magdalene’s body was buried by her good friend Maximin (1st bishop of Aix), and later hidden for centuries only to be re-discovered on December 10, 1279 during excavations ordered by Charles II himself.

Mary Magdalene’s remains were found intact except for her jaw bone. In the dust inside the tomb was a wooden tablet wrapped in wax.

wooden tablet“Here lies the body of Mary Magdalene.”

Also found in her tomb was the Sainte Ampoule (a glass sphere containing earth soaked with blood of Jesus Christ collected by Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross).

Reunion of jaw bone and skull of Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene’s jaw bone had been sent to Rome after a previous excavation of her tomb and before the Saracen invasion of 710 AD, when all important relics in France were hidden. In Rome, Mary Magdalene’s jaw bone had been venerated for centuries. With the news of the 1279 discovery, Pope Boniface VIII returned the jaw bone to St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and on April 6, 1295 it was reunited with the skull of Mary Magdalene. The pope then published the pontifical bull for the establishment of the Dominicans at Sainte Baume and St. Maximin. The Dominicans chose Mary Magdalene as co-patroness of their Order of Preachers.


Noli me tangere

Noli me tangere, meaning “touch me not” is the Latin version of words spoken, according to John, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognized him after his Resurrection:

John 20:17
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father;
but go to my brothers and say to them,
‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
alonso-cano-noli-me-tangereNoli me tangere by Alonzo Cano (1601-1667)

When first opening the tomb of Mary Magdalene in 1279, there was a wonderful smell of perfume that filled the air, and there was a small piece of skin attached to her skull in the spot where Jesus touched her after his Resurrection. The bishops who witnessed the excavation called the piece of skin “noli me tangere,” for they realized that through the miracle of Jesus’ touch the skin was still alive. Those in charge of the relics carefully sealed the noli me tangere in a glass vase. Centuries passed….  there was a widely recognized, time-honored alliance between Mary Magdalene and Provence..

In 1793 during the French Revolution the shrine was broken into and the relics thrown about. The basilica at St. Maximin was saved from utter destruction by transforming it into a government store placing over the great doors the words – Fournitures Militaires or “Military Supplies.”.

Joseph Bastide, sacristan of St. Maximin, removed the skull of Mary Magdalene  along with the Sainte Ampoule and the noli me tangere. After the Revolution, Bastide brought his treasure to the archbishop

Many more pictures at link and the rest of the story.



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