Gothic Cathedrals: A Guide to the History, Places, Art, and Symbolism (2015)



Places to Visit: a short guide to Magdalene sites in France, Belgium, Italy, London

Due to the significant levels of growing interest by modern visitors in sites related to Mary Magdalene as well as the shrines of the Black Madonna, I have selected a few of the key medieval period Western European pilgrimage sites in three countries often frequently visited by travellers today—France, Belgium, and Italy—that feature Mary Magdalene, i.e, those that are also more easily accessible. Obviously, many of the medieval shrines to Mary Magdalene are in or near a cathedral.

Of course, please note that there are many other Magdalene-related sites all over Europe; these are a few that you may wish to incorporate as part of a future holiday or spiritual journey.


Brussels—There are a number of relevant sites here, but one lovely image of St Mary Magdalene can be found at the Chapel of St Catherine; also has a Black Madonna;

Hal/Halle—a beautiful statue of St Mary Magdalene in the Church of St Martin; also a Black Madonna.

Tournai—there is the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, with its stunning Black Madonna; this area was also important as the capital of the Franks.


Chartres—a large Mary Magdalene stained glass window, depicting scenes from her life; two Black Madonnas (one in the nave and the other in the crypt) and much more to see at this cathedral;

Le Puy—painting of “The Three Marys at the Tomb of Jesus”; also has a Black Madonna (Notre Dame de Puy), a statue of Joan of Arc, and was also one of the four major starting-points for pilgrims travelling on to Santiago de Compostela

Marseilles—a Black Virgin (Notre Dame de la Confession) in the crypt of the Abbey of St Victor; its colorful annual 2 February. Candlemas celebration with special green candles to commemorate the Provencal legends of the arrival of ‘the Three Marys’—St Mary Magdalene, Lazarus and Martha, etc;

Orleans—long a key St Mary Magdalene pilgrimage site, it also has a Black Virgin (Notre Dame des Miracles) and among other things, is a site as well-known today for its historical links to Joan of Arc;

Paris—Too many sites to list here, but, for one easier-to-visit example: in the lesser-known but beautiful Church of Saint-Merri, on the busy Rue Saint Martin on the Right Bank, there is a lovely stained glass window of St Mary Magdalene adjacent to another one of St Mary the Egyptian;

Rennes-le-Chateau—with its well-known church in the stunning Languedoc, it has long been dedicated to St Marie Madeleine; this site and landscape environs has much interesting history, lore and symbolism. The church has, among much else, its famous Magdalene altar panel (painted by Fr Sauniere himself); the grounds have a lovely garden, orangery, the Tour Magdala, Villa Bethania, and much more;

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer—at this Provencal church in the Carmargue, the place where legends say Mary Magdalene and her entourage first arrived from the Holy Land after the crucifixion; see the well-known mural of imagery featuring the Three Marys (including Mary Magdalene);

St-Maximin: a tomb and relics of St Mary Magdalene with major celebrations on July 22nd; nearby, on the hilltop, is Sainte-Baume, the grotto long associated in Provencal legend with earlier spiritual traditions linked to the divine Feminine, and, by medieval times, it became especially famous for its alleged association as the cave and hermitage site of Mary Magdalene in her later years;

Vezelay—a shrine of St Mary Magdalene in the crypt of its towering Romanesque Basilica; this city was also a major starting point for medieval pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela (Spain).


Oropa—a beautiful site in northern Italy with a striking St Mary Magdalene stained glass window and a lovely Black Madonna; it has also long been a key site important to the Savoy family;

Venice — Basilica of San Marco, which periodically displays its Precious Blood relic that is said to include unguent ointment of St Mary Magdalene; also, this church claims the head of St John the Baptist. Like any country, there are a number of other sites, but these are two that are accessible.