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A Provençal Holy Land. Re-reading the Legend and the Sites of Mary Magdalene in Southern France
By Romy Wyche
Collegium Medievale, Volume 29, 2016
Abstract: This paper examines the pilgrimage experience of pilgrims to Mary Magdalene’s and her companions’ sites in Provence during the Middle Ages. The author analyses the creation of the cult and the elaboration of a ‘holy geography’ in Provence based on medieval vitae about the legend of the saints.
Sites associated with the saints became part of a wider narrative in which the topography was constructed to ‘ventriloque’ Palestine. This development led to similarities in the pilgrimage experience in both regions. Through an analysis of pilgrimage accounts, the author argues that pilgrims in both Provence and the holy Land interpreted the topography through the prism of the texts that they were reading, the vitae for the former and the Bible for the latter.
This shared scriptural basis established certain parallels in the pilgrimage experience at each destination and, as will be examined, contributed to constructing Provence as a post-biblical holy land where the life of Mary Magdalene and her companions could be tangibly experienced.