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Maria di Magdala

Maria di Magdala – ongoing

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Maria di Magdala is a slow work in progress investigating the history of Mary Magdalen and how it reflects on western ideas of womanhood.

Subjected to heavy manipulations throughout the history of the Church, the figure of the Mary Magdalen was disempowered during the papacy of Pope Gregory the Great, whose interpretation of sacred scriptures associated the Mary Magdalen to the unnamed woman who was expressly identified as sexual sinner - the woman with a "bad name" who wiped Jesus' feet with ointment in sign of repentance. According to historical documents, Mary from Magdala was the daughter of a family of artistocrats, making inaccurate the definition of "repentant prostitute". Escaping the persecution of Christians in Palestine, Mary Magdalen embarked on a journey with Mary Salome, Mary of Clopa and Lazarus, facing a disastrous shipwreck in Saint-Marie-de-la-Mer. 

Together with Lazarus and the two Maries, Mary Magdalen has been the woman who began the process of evangelization of Europe. Drawing closer the Pagan and Gypsy community thanks to her use of medical herbs and ointments, she constitutes a fundamental pilar of the history of Christianity which is overlooked and diminished by the re-writing of history done by the Catholic Church, which saw the exclusion of women from any position of power. 

After completing the evangelization of Camargue, Mary Magdalen decided to spend the last 33 years of her life as a hermit, making her the first hermit in history. Crossing 648,50 km by foot, she retired into a cave which was later transformed into a sanctuary, known as the Sainte Baume. 

The Mary Magdalen's history contributed to shaping ideas around womanhood throughout the western world. Her history also makes us question our treatment towards Middle-Eastern immigration; Christianity was brought to Europe thanks to a Middle-Eastern immigrant, to which we owe at least a historical recognition. 

Starting by re-tracing her journey from Saint-Marie-de-la-Mer to the Sainte Baume, I approached the landscape as a millenary silent witness of her passage.