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Sainte Baume Grotto and Mary Magdalene in Provence

Grotto on a Hillside

Nutmeg got a little lost on her way to this hike. Given the religious significance of the location, maybe she was not the first lost soul during the long history of the Sainte Baume grotto. The grotto is located inside a natural cave high on the sheer cliff face of the Massif de la Ste-Baume. The word baoumo is Provençal for grotto. 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.

The traditional belief is that Mary Magdalene and several others accompanied two disciples Maximin and Sidonius, to spread the joyous message of Christ’s rising beyond the borders of Palestine in the year 42 AD. Their boat managed to cross the Mediterranean, arriving in what is now the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The story goes that Mary Salome, Mary Jacoby and their attendant Marcella remained in this area (now the Camargue). The others travelled further afield to what is now the city of Marseille. It was at that time the Roman port settlement of Massilia. Explore the original Ginger & Nutmeg post.

Additional read: Marseille a City that History Buffs Should Visit

Mary Magdalene in Provence Legend or Fact

Did Mary Magdalene Live in Provence?

A crippled ship bobs helplessly on a storm-tossed sea, and those on board face certain death, but then a miracle occurs. Guided by the hand of God, the ship arrives safely on the shores of Provence. Out steps Mary Magdalene, ready to spread The Word throughout France.

Mary Magdalene landing in France…was not that in The Da Vinci Code? Well, not quite. It’s from the legend of Mary Magdalene in Provence, a rich vein of tradition that author Dan Brown almost certainly tapped for his bestseller. Monuments to Mary and her shipmates abound in Provence, and her legend stretches back nearly 2,000 years.

The story began after the death of Jesus when his followers were persecuted in the Holy Land. Several of them were forced into a boat without rudder or sail and cast out to sea, left to perish there.  Accounts vary, but a popular version of the legend says that along with Mary Magdalene were Mary Salomé, Mary Jacobé, Martha, Lazarus, Maximin, and their Egyptian servant Sara. Keep reading to determine if you think Mary’s arrival in Provence is a legend or a fact.

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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