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Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene (măgˈdələn; formerly, and still in Magdalen College, Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, môdˈlən, hence maudlin, i.e., tearful) [key] [traditionally Greek, = of Magdala], Christian saint, a woman widely venerated in Christendom. The name Madeleine is a French form of Magdalene. She appears in the New Testament as a woman whose evil spirits are cast out by Jesus, as a watcher at the Cross, as an attendant at Jesus' burial, and as one of those who found the tomb empty (Mat. 27.56,61; 28; Mark 15.47; 16; Luke 8.2; 24; John 19.25; 20). Long-standing tradition identifies her with the repentant prostitute who anointed Jesus' feet (Luke 7.36–50). Some also identify her with the sister of Martha (Luke 10.38). Because of the legend (held completely improbable by the Roman Catholic Church) that St. Mary Magdalene lived in penitence at Sainte-Baume, W Var dept., France, the grotto there became a place of pilgrimage. The principal aspect of her cult is as the penitent, hence the word Magdalen. In many of the Gnostic gospels (see Gnosticism), Mary Magdalene is favored by Jesus and is among the most prominent of his disciples. Artistic representations deal particularly with her repentance, with her bathing of the feet of Jesus, and with her meeting with Jesus after the resurrection. She appears in representations of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. Frequently she is shown with red hair. Feast: July 22.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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