“Opening a path that connects the graves of the two Maries (Salomé and Jacobé) of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to the tomb of the third Marie (Marie Madeleine), at La Sainte-Baume and Saint-Maximin was obvious Going through Marseilles where the saint preached with Lazarus, at Notre-Dame-du-mont Carmel, a stopover for Mary Magdalene, another obvious thing!Like going to Jerusalem, where those close to Jesus lived… These are fourteen days of exceptional spiritual and heritage pilgrimage…
Indeed, they all three landed on these shores of the Camargue: it is therefore from there that the announcement of the Good News of the Resurrection of Christ in Gaul started! It is therefore quite natural that the path of Marie Madeleine, which has just been opened, starts at Saintes-Maries, where the relics of Marie Jacobé and Marie Salomé rest, to go as far as Sainte-Baume and Saint- Maximin, at the tomb of Mary Magdalene.
Let’s tell the story of Provence: some 45 years after the death of Christ, according to the Acts of the Apostles, the friends of Jesus were persecuted in Palestine by the Jews and the Romans. Stephen suffers martyrdom. A very well-known and wealthy group – made up of Lazare and his sisters, Martha and Marie Madeleine, Marie Jacobé, Marie Salomé and her servant Sara, other disciples of Jesus – are thrown by force into a boat without sail or oar. According to another tradition, they embark of their own free will on a merchant ship making the connection between Palestine and the Oppidum Ra (of Rats, rado, island of land in a lagoon) – later renamed Les Saintes-Maries-de -the sea. They knew that a Jewish diaspora had formed here.
Arrived in these places, those close to Jesus announce the Good News. It is the beginning of the Christianization of Gaul. The Good News extends, goes up to Arles, Lyon, then to the North and to the East.
A small chapel was erected in the 6th century at Saintes-Maries, and evidence exists of processions with wreaths of flowers before the 15th century, but it was in 1448 under King René that the relics of Marie Salomé and Marie Jacobé were discovered. The 12th and 13th century church, fortified in the 14th century, is a superb stone vessel from which you can see 12km around. In the center of the church, a source of fresh water, resurgence of a vein of the Rhone, arises. The church served as protection against looters from all walks of life. It is a refuge for the heart and the soul thanks to the presence of the relics and the thickness of the walls.
The idea of the path comes from an encounter I had at the sanctuary of the Saints, where I was a leader, in 1993. Cyrille Boland, a pilgrim to Compostela and Jerusalem, had decided to walk on the path of the saints, with his female. On the way, he noticed the richness of the Christian heritage and the fervor of the inhabitants. The project was born. Having become an Orthodox deacon, a beekeeper in the Gers, Cyrille did the scouting for the path and carried out all the digital part. The Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur region is also getting involved. The French Federation of hiking has provided assistance. A route has been decided, the markup is in progress. A topoguide, practical addresses and an accommodation book specific to pilgrims are being developed, and accessible subject to membership of the association.
From Saintes, the pilgrim leaves for Martigues*, Salins-de-Giraud, Marseille – and La Major cathedral, where the relics of Saint Lazare are kept –, then Sainte-Baume and Saint-Maximin, discovering for fifteen days a heritage Gallo-Roman and Christian of exception, and a deep, long-lasting attachment of the inhabitants to their tradition.
Collected by Muriel Fauriat
*Only a small portion around Fos-sur-Mer in the industrial zone is currently inaccessible on foot and can be done by bus.
In the footsteps of Mary Magdalene
Since April 9, Céline Anaya Gautier and Claire Colette have embarked on a ten-month walk, from France to Israel. Goals? Open a pilgrimage route in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene and question the role of women in the Church. Follow their journey here!