Mary Magdalene’s Cave the Sainte Baume Grotto
Easter Sunday Mass was celebrated at ‘La Grotte de Sainte-Baume’ at the weekend to formally re-open the cave of Saint Mary Magdalene after its being closed for 10 months’ work. I hadn’t realized that this is Christianity’s 3rd most holy shrine after Christ in Jerusalem and St Peter in Rome. It is a memorable place to visit, reached by a wide pathway, the Chemin des Roys, which has many steps leading up to the grotto. Continue reading here for the original post.
Sainte Baume Grotto
Located between the busy urban centres of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille one finds a quiet place of reflection. In the heart of the Parc naturel régional de la Sainte-Baume, is a mountain that stretches 12km and a famous religious site. The Sainte Baume Grotto is a prominent destination for Christian pilgrimages and anyone interested in discovering the place where (it is believed) Mary Magdalene spent years in isolation. Stories from Christian religious history and associated legends of Mary Magdalene support the theory of her living a hermetic existence in this cave for over 30 years.
Baoumo is the Provençal word for grotto. The grotto is located inside a natural cave high on the sheer cliff face of the Massif de la Ste-Baume. A dense forest forms a thick, green canopy over the Chemin des Roys or the Kings Road. This pathway leads to the cave and small Dominican monastery. Catholic Popes, Kings of France and pilgrims alike have walked up the steep trail to the hillside chapel. There is a daily mass at 11 am at the Chapelle Grand Saint-Cassien inside the slightly humid grotto. Please note that it’s a good idea to take a jacket as the grotto is cool.
Additional reading: Author’s Pilgrimage Discovering Sacred Sites in France.
Accessing the Grotto
The site is open all year. Check the website for exact hours.
The only way to reach the grotto is by walking up via one of the trails. At average walking speed, it takes about 45 minutes to reach the site.
- The Chemin des Roys (Kings Paths), the easiest and largest trail. This path is wide and mostly shaded. The walk starts at the Departmental road. The Trois Chênes (Three Oaks) is the best place to park your car.
- The GR 9 (GR = Grande Randonée indicates a long-distance hiking trail) is marked with red and white paint flashes. This path is narrow and steep in some sections.
- Finally, the Canapé Path is the third route option, with the trailhead located near the hotel.
Discover Le Parc naturel régional de la Sainte-Baume, which straddles the departments of Bouches du Rhône and the Var and blankets 29 communes.