Basilica St Marie Madeleine (Saint Maximin – France)

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Mary Magdalene (or Mary of Bethany), sister of Martha and Lazarus, fleeing persecution of Herod, took refuge in Provence with her brother and sister. After landing at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, she served for thirty years a cave of the massif of Sainte-Baume while she evangelized Provence. At her death, she was buried in Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. Became famous, her tomb is in the crypt of the current basilica, will be kept by monks of the abbey of St. Victor in Marseilles. In the eighth century the Saracen invasions force the religious to fill the crypt which housed the tomb in order to shelter the precious relics. The cult of the Saint remains alive.

The memory of that grave who was not lost, the Prince of Salerno, Charles II, son of the Count of Provence Charles I made in 1279 to undertake research to find the relics of Mary Magdalene to whom he dedicates a great devotion. This research lead to the discovery of an early Christian tomb, the current crypt containing the bones that would have belonged to the saint. Charles II, became Count of Provence and King of Naples, visits in April 1295 with Pope Boniface VIII bringing with him the minutes written by the bishops of Provence authenticating his discovery. He obtained the Pope bubbles that grant indulgences to the visitors and certify the authenticity of the relics. The Pope also decided to entrust the care of St. Maximin and the Sainte-Baume brothers Preachers of St. Dominic.

Excavations in 1993 to the immediate south of the basilica unearthed a religious complex dating from the early sixth century composed of a church to which was attached a baptistery. The mausoleum for the current crypt would be high on the edge of this habitat at an earlier date than a century only. Around the year thousand the primitive church is rebuilt and enlarged at the expense of the baptistery. Restored in 1200, it still had to be in place when the discovery of the relics of Mary Magdalene.

Construction history of the Basilica

In 1295 Charles II of Anjou, became Count of Provence and King of Sicily, decided to build on the very site of the discovery of the tomb a basilica and a Dominican monastery. The works take on a real scale from 1305, thanks to the appointment as head of the St. Maximin monastery Jean Gobi who will be the Prior of 1304 in 1328. In 1320 the apse and the last bay are complete. The following four bays are made from 1330 to 1345. The entrance to the crypt is then located outside the church. In 1404 we know that the apse and the last five bays of the nave were completed. Jean Le Maingre said Boucicaut, Marshal of France, decided to cover the crypt to build the northern part of the fourth bay; the crypt is then leveled at ground level of the new basilica.

The work resumed under Louis XII in 1508 with the appointment of a new prior, Jean Damiani who will exercise the longest prieurat monastery for thirty five years from 1508 to 1543. The work of the fourth bay is resumed and completed in 1513 under the direction of the architect Hugues Caillat. The first three bays were completed in 1532 after several interruptions due in particular to the plague.

See the official website of the Basilica Saint Maximin

Now partner, you can  light a candle in Basilica of Saint Maximin (Sainte Marie Madeleine) with Wilum.

Person in charge of

Father Florian Racine

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