Mary Magdalene and the Provençal Tradition

October 19 to 25, 2024

Mary Magdalene’s Voyage to Marseilles – Giotto di Bondone in 1320

“Then Saint Maximin, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Martha, Martille (Marthe’s servant), along with other Christians, were thrown by the infidels onto a boat and thrown into the sea, with no one to steer the boat. The infidels hoped that, in this way, they would all be drowned at once. But the boat, guided by divine grace, fortunately arrived in the port of Marseille.”
The Golden Legend – Jacques de Voragine, 1265

In Provence, we perpetuate the memory of Saint Mary Magdalene, the most sensual of the female figures of the New Testament, who became patroness of our region. According to Provençal Tradition, to escape the persecutions of Herod she would have crossed the Mediterranean, in a boat without oars and without sails, to come ashore at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. She would have contributed to the evangelization of Provence, and would have spent the end of her life, in contemplation, in a cave in the Saint-Baume massif, which today has become the Sanctuary of Mary Magdalene.
The Provençal Tradition has been carefully transmitted from one generation to another through the centuries, with all its strength and sincerity. I learned it from my father when I was a child. He was very devoted to his beloved “Mado”, as he called her.

What this retreat “Mary Magdalene and the Provençal Tradition” is about ….

A week to discover the places where Mary Magdalene spent the last part of her life.
Indeed, we will go to meet Magdalene to have an experience of the sacred through contemplation and contact, physical presence in the places where she lived. Not only we will meet the privileged witness and intimate companion of Jesus, but also Jesus himself, through the imprint of his two fingers on Magdalene’s forehead. Like the ancient pilgrims, we will perform ritual gestures, we will drink the water that flows from the holy grotto, and we will be able to charge our objects of piety with sacral effectiveness.

The program of the pilgrimage “Mary Magdalene and the Provençal Tradition”

Day 1 : Pick up at Marseille airport at 2.00pm and group transfer to our hotel at Saint Maximin
After check in, we will begin with a visit to the basilica and the crypt where the relics are kept. You could drop your intention for this pilgrimage. A unique experience, a great moment of emotion.

Day 2 : The arrival of Mary Magdalene in Provence
Our pilgrimage begins at Saintes Maries de la mer, where the Provençal Tradition begins.
We will attend the “Little Pilgrimage”, in honor of the arrival of Jesus’ companions on the coasts of Camargue. This day of celebration to honor the memory of the 3 Marys, Salomé, Jacobé and Magdalene.
I would have the joy of introducing you to my friends, gypsies and local natives, who for decades have been the guardians of Tradition in the Camargue.
You will attend the procession to the sea and witness the ascent of the relics in the Chapel St Michael, where they will stay for one year.

Day 3: Mary Magdalene in Marseille
Marseille constitutes an obligatory stop on the pilgrimage: it is the city where the beginning of Magdalene’s activity in Provence took place, it is the city where she introduced Christianity by preaching the Gospel and establishing a Christian Church of which his brother Lazarus was the first bishop.
We will go to the south bank of the city to visit the Magdalenian souvenirs of Saint-Victor Abbey. Founded by John Cassian, who also established the first pilgrimage to the cave, the abbey is also home to the Black Virgin of Our Lady of Confession. I am very attached to her and I will tell you how this Virgin performed a miracle for my grandfather.

Day 4: Mary Magdalene in Aix en Provence and Martha in Tarascon
Mary Magdalene begins to evangelize Aix en Provence alongside her friend Maximin. Indeed, he was a notable, close to the family of Bethany and one of the seventy-two disciples of the Lord. He knew Lazarus, Martha and Mary well, and he accompanied them on the boat. To celebrate mass and pray with Magdalene and the very first Christians, he had built a very small oratory outside the city, in a solitary place. The oratory of Saint Sauveur could hardly contain more than 10 to 12 people. It is now located in the cathedral. At the end of our visit, we will pay homage to the Black Virgin Our Lady of Hope.
Then, in the afternoon, we will visit Martha in Tarsacon. Martha is the one who welcomes, who opens her house and her heart. She is the perfect mistress of the house, an unfailing faith.
Martha, the active one, is often contrasted with Mary, the contemplative one seated at the feet of Jesus. However, they are complementary.
She settled in Tarascon after having rid the region of the famous Tarasque, a formidable animal which sowed terror. She built near the Rhône an oratory and her house which is now the Collegiate Church which we will visit.

Day 5: Mary Magdalene, the myrrh-bearing woman
Today, we will discover Mary Magdalene in the Orthodox tradition. The Saint Michel du Var orthodox monastery was built in 1982 and its location was chosen after the miraculous vision of the icon of the Virgin Mary. It has a contemplative location and features a relic of St Mary Magdalene in the crypt where we can gather in prayer.
The afternoon you will participate to a workshop on the practice of anointing and the preparation of an anointing oil to pay homage to Mary Magdalene, the myrrh-bearer woman.

Day 6: The pilgrimage to Ste Baume
Our pilgrimage ends with a day in the holy mountain.
Arriving at the foot of the mountain, one cannot help but be struck by the sacred majesty of the massif. Here we find the cave dedicated to Magdalene Cave in which she finished her life in prayer.
We will cross the sacred forest once dedicated to Mother Earth then Artemis. We will take, in silence, the Chemin des Roys, as thousands of famous and anonymous pilgrims have done before us. Arriving at the cave, time seems to stand still. We will place at the feet of Mary Magdalene our offerings and our prayer intentions.

Day 7 : Departure
Group transfer to Marseille airport

Why make this pilgrimage in Magdalene’s footsteps in Provence?

I invite you to discover with me the places where, according to this Provençal Tradition, she lived the last years of her life. Places in which I have spent most of my life and where I clearly feel her presence.
I have prepared this pilgrimage with my heart. I would like you to feel this attachment that we, Provençal people, have to Mary Magdalene. So that you can discover the Magdalene that we venerate here, in Provence, where, because of the central importance of her role in the gospel, her presence takes on capital importance.
.After visiting all these places where she is still omnipresent, you will no longer doubt her arrival in Provence.

Travel dates :

You should fly to Marseille Airport in order to arrive Saturday, October 19th – pick up at 2.00pm Meeting point – Terminal 1 – Hall A and return home from Marseille Airport on Friday, October 25th in the afternoon.

Highlights of “Mary Magdalene and the Provençal Tradition” pilgrimage