I attended the conference of Dr. Philippe Charlier, medical examiner, at the Royal Convent in St Maximin by the Association of Friends of the Basilica.
Philippe Charlier, a specialist in medico-historical puzzles, reconstructed Mary Magdalene’s face. He presented the result of his work. It is a proposal for a medico-legal reconstruction of Mary Magdalene’s face according to the relics of the crypt at Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume.
Asked by the bishopric of Fréjus-Toulon, this expertise was to advance on the authentication of these relics, challenged since the seventeenth century. “We do not know if it’s Mary Magdalene. It would take DNA to be more precise. But we have no arguments against its authenticity.
According to Philippe Charlier, their process is developed based on forensic techniques used in crime scene investigations by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Since he could not take out the skull of the reliquary preserved in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint-Maximin, the team of medical anthropology of the University of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines has therefore made a photographic survey. They took more than 400 photos of the skull from every angle using 3D software. This allowed them to work virtually on it.
In addition, the team had access to the lock of hair kept in the reliquary of the Dominicans at the cave. They were examined using a binocular magnifying glass and a scanning electron microscope.
Philippe Charlier discovered traces of clay indicating that this woman was putting clay to dye her hair or fight against fleas and lice.
Philippe Charlier, used to this type of medico-legal reconstruction, explains that it is the face of a woman in her fifties, Mediterranean, with dark brown hair. A striking and realistic portrait.
For more information, Philippe Charlier said that it would require additional expertise. It is up to the bishopric of Fréjus-Toulon to decide to do it. But, the final decision has to be taken by the Pope.
Philippe Charlier also hopes to one day conduct DNA tests on the remains to determine geographic origin. But this can be done only by removing small portions of the skull, which the Catholic Church has not allowed.
For Philippe Charlier, “this work is useful. Each of these studies makes it possible to fill the shadows in the field of history and to improve and validate techniques in the service of forensic medicine “.
Philippe Charlier tells us that the possibility of working on such a renowned person, “was very emotional work for him.”
While the researchers have only a face so far, they hope to one day reconstruct an entire body based off the femur and rib bones associated with the skull.