Mary Magdalene relics discovery took place in several stages : invention, elevation, “translation”.
The invention of the relics – December 9, 1279
At all times, the Provencals thought that Marie, Marthe, Lazare, their brother, with Maximin, Sidonius, Marie Jacobé and Salomé, driven from Judea by the Jews, failed on board a ship without sails or rudder, on the coasts of Provence. They evangelized the region. Mary Magdalene did penance for thirty years at Sainte-Baume. When she died, Maximin, first bishop of Aix, buried her at village named at the first century, Villa Latta . But we do not know where his relics are in this church, we are unable to show them.
Charles, Prince of Salerno, is the son of Charles of Anjou, Count of Provence, and therefore the nephew of King Saint Louis. He is himself the father of a saint, Louis de Brignoles, bishop of Toulouse. He wishes to update the evidence of the existence of the tomb of Mary Magdalene in Provence.
To carry out his research, he went to Aix, studied the history books and the annals. He also questioned the old men about the local traditions which provide the scout.
Charles II thus acquired the certainty that Saint Maximin had buried the body of Magdalene in the church of the small town which bears his name. He therefore went there with his suite, in December 1279. He gives order to make excavations, they visited the tombs, the walls and the floor of the church … They ended up reaching the crypt, walled and filled with soil.
Finally, on December 9, “the prince, said the chronicler, had stripped his chlamyde, and, armed with a hoe, he dug the earth with such ardor that he was inundated with sweat, those who were met a marble tomb worker ”. They tried to open it; immediately a wonderful odor escaped. And so, the audience think that the body they saw was the treasure they were looking for.
These are the facts which constitute the “invention” of the relics. The word comes from the Latin word “invenire”, that is to say to discover, find, and not to invent.
Elevation of the relics
In the dust of the tomb the Prince found a piece of old cork containing a small parchment with a Latin inscription.
“The year of the Nativity of the Lord 710, 6th day of December, at night and very secretly, under the reign of the very pious Eudes, king of the French, at the time of the ravages of the treacherous Saracen nation, this body of the very dear and venerable Saint Marie-Madeleine was, for fear of the treacherous nation, transferred from her alabaster tomb to this marble tomb, after having removed Sidoine’s body from it, because it was better hidden there ”.
The Prince drew up an act of relating these facts and sealed the tomb.
Translation of the relics – May 5, 1280
Charles II summoned for May 5 following the prelates of the county of Provence, the archbishops of Narbonne, Arles and Aix, abbots, religious, prelates, his barons, the clergy and the people. In their presence he broke the seals and opened the tomb.
In the middle of the relics was a wax-coated globe and inside this short inscription that was still hard to decipher:
“Hic requiescit corpus Mariae Magdalenae”. (Here lies the body of Mary-Magdalene).
Her body was entire minus the lower jaw and one leg. Hair surrounded the skull. We also discovered the “noli me tangere” which really characterizes her: the particle of flesh, covered with skin, remained adherent above the left brow bone, at the place of the forehead touched by the fingers of Our risen Lord when appeared to her, near the empty tomb, on Easter morning. This piece of flesh stayed in place until the middle of the 18th century.
Next to the body , was an amphora containing earth. Hereafter called « La Sainte Ampoule », it contained Calvary earth tinted with the blood of Our Lord. On Good Friday, the blood liquefied. It was stolen in 1904.
On December 10, 1283 they place the skull in a bust-like reliquary in the presence of lay officers and priests, religious and secular. Charles 1st offered his crown, after the elevation, as a gift and tribute to Saint Mary-Magdalene.