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Reviews 183 Jansen, Katherine Ludwig, The Making of the Magdalen, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2000; cloth; pp. xvii, 389; 50 b/w plates; R R P£25; ISBN 0-691-05850-4. Mary Magdalen has been a popular subject for books and monographs from the 1930s onward, with a particular flurry of activity in the 1990s. This later period coincides with, and builds upon, the growth of a 'coherent body of feminist scholarship' (p. 14) which moved the study of w o m e n from the margins to the centre of the discipline of medieval studies. Jansen's book, adapted from her doctoral dissertation, concentrates on the promotion of the cult of the Magdalen through medieval preaching, particularly that ofthe mendicant friars. It commences with the discovery on 9 December 1297 of a sarcophagus at the church of SaintMaximin in Aix-en-Provence by the Angevin prince Charles of Salerno. The remains therein were identified with Mary Magdalen, known in medieval popular religion as the first witness to the resurrection and the apostle of southern Gaul. The development ofthe legend ofMary Magdalen is long and tortuous. She is mentioned only briefly in the four gospels and was frequently confused with the other 'Marys' of Jesus' ministry, Mary ofBethany and Mary the wife of Cleopas. She is more prominent in three gnostic gospels, the Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Mary (the only gospel to be named for a female) and the Gospel of Philip. The Early Christian and Patristic discourse discounted these texts as heretical and orthodox Christianity was evidently made uncomfortable by the role ofthe Magdalen. In 591 Pope Gregory the Great established a 'new' Magdalen by identifying her with Luke's 'female sinner'. B y acquiring a sexually dubious past, Mary Magdalen became an example ofrepentance and salvation relevant to all Christians. ChaptersT w o toFouranalysePopeGregoryX'scharacterisationofthemendicantorders as 'both Marthas andMarys' (p. 50). The 'Mary' hereoriginallywas Mary ofBethany, who listened to Jesus rather than assist her sister Martha in the domestic chores (Luke 10: 38-42). The Pope's image is significant because the mendicants themselves regarded the 'mixed' life, thatwhich incorporated the active andthe contemplative , asthebestformoflife.mtheelevenmcenturyalegendofMaryMagdalen's apostolate in southern Gaul came into circulation, probably as a result ofclaims by Vezelay to possess her relics. She was designatedapostolorum apostola and deemed tohavepreachedasadirectresultofherresurrectionwitness. Jansenamassesmaterial explaining this transformation, largely from sermons of mendicants. The fine illustrations also make clear the Magdalen's increasing stature and popularity. The Magdalen, as a type of conversion, was central to the penitential life. She became also a type for the laity as a whole, and through her identification 184 Reviews with Mary ofBethany, a type ofthe contemplative life. This was often represented as eremitical, and she became the patron saint of hermits and anchorites. Chapters Five and Six examine the Magdalen's life as a notorious sinner. The medieval clergy construed the sin of the unnamed female in Luke as a sexual sin, and Mary Magdalen was commonly given the attributes of youth and beauty (especially symbolized by her copious golden hair), and lack of supervision and independence , which would naturally have led her into sin. As the patron saint of prostitutes, convents for reformed harlots and refuges for penitent prostitutes were established in her name, and using her as an example sermons were preached on 'the evils of vanity, luxuria, prostitution and thefrailtiesof women' (p. 194). The final use of the Magdalen was as an image of the perfect penitent, because she had been transformed through penitence from a great sinner into a great saint. She was often depicted as weeping, and w o m e n were believed to be more disposed than men to this: 'medieval notions of the body unexpectedly privileged the female body in the religious sphere' (p. 211). Chapters Eight to Eleven discuss responses to the saint represented in the mendicant preaching. They include Raymond of Capua and Catherine of Siena's use of the Magdalen in the construction of Catherine's piety, the image of Mary Magdalen in the St Albans Psalter, which possibly belonged to Christina of Markyate, as herald of the resurrection, and the commissioning by Isabel Bourchier, Countess of Eu, of Osbern...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 183-184
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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