Where Did Mary Magdalene Die?
We pretty much know where the various apostles ended up, but two people in Jesus' group seem to have vanished completely. Those would be his mother, Mary, and his "female friend", Mary Magdalene. Where did these two women go?
First, nobody knows for sure. For some reason the apostles do not mention her, so we can assume she did not stay around the local area. Given that her loved teacher had just been slain and persecution was high, it makes sense that Mary and Mary would have immediately left the area and looked for somewhere safe to live. If we make the leap of faith that Mary M was pregnant with Jesus' child, then it would be even more important for her to find a safe, quiet place to live.
The Church Version
Gregory of Tours, the man who wrote about the Merovingians, also wrote that the two Marys took refuge with John the Evangelist and eventually died in Ephesus, Turkey. Again, Gregory was writing 400 years later and much of this was legend by then. In 886 those relics were moved to Constantinople.
The Merovingians claim that descendants of Mary went to Germany and founded their family line. The Merovingians are only mentioned in history starting in the 400s. So there is no documentation of what they were doing before then. Since Mary and Mary became "lost" in around 30AD, that is nearly 400 years of missing connection.
The French Version
Legend has it that in the year 42, a little boat landed in Les Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer, France. They had no oars, having been caught in a storm. Both Marys were in the boat as well as friends (including Lazarus the healed leper and St. Maximin) and a young girl named "Sarah" who was very dark. According to legend, Mary M had been pregnant by Jesus and first ran to Egypt with those closest to her. Then they crossed to France to find a safer place to live. Of course the village didn't have that name at the time, the name came later because of the boat landing :)
Another document, written around 100 years later, claims that the two Marys and St. Maximin moved to Aix-en-Provence. This is the bottom right corner of France. Mary lived on a hill now named La Sainte-Baume, and when she died she was buried in the church at St. Maximin. In 745 because of fears of invasion and ransacking, the relics were moved to Vézelay. In 1279 King Charles II found that new shrine which had inscribed on it a note of why the relics had been moved. He built La Sainte-Baume convent on the hill. In 1600, Clement VIII had the relics put into two stone coffins - one for the body and one for the head. The French Revolution destroyed many sacred locations, and in 1814 they restored La Sainte-Baume convent.
Painting of Seascape Near Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer by Van Gogh
Visitor Opinion -
Very officially, in the Catholic tradition, the tomb of St Mary Magdalene is in the crypt under the basilica of the town of St Maximin in Provence. I took some pictures of the skull reliquary when I was there this summer and I've uploaded one of them here
Of course, God only knows if that's the real thing or not...
My Response -
It's interesting that even if we dug up a skeleton, we would have no way of proving it was hers or not. We could say it was "a woman from the time of Christ" but not that it was Mary or not. If only we had known descendents, we would be all set. On the other hand if we got this woman's DNA and then compared it with Merovingian descendant DNA maybe that would at least tell us they were related to this mystery woman and might give us something to start with. In any case, I'm pretty sure the "official" pope view is that she went to Ephesus but they do acknowledge that other legends exist. Relics were notorious for popping up all over Europe in the middle ages. Saints bones and relics were found at just about every shrine, because the priests there wanted to draw in visitors and therefore donations. Still, of all the Mary M relics, that one at La Sainte-Baume seems to be one of the two main "authentic" spots to choose from.
Visitor Opinion -
As for relics of Mary Magdalene is concerned, there is a pilgrimage shrine and reliquary in Vézelay, France of Mary Magdalene. It is said in 1600 the relics were placed in a sarcophagus sent by Clement VIII, the head being placed in a separate vessel. In 1814 the church of La Sainte-Baume, wrecked during the Revolution, was restored, and in 1822 the grotto was consecrated afresh. The head of the saint now lies there, where it has lain so long, and where it has been the centre of so many pilgrimages.
My Response -
It's strange that they kept the head separate!
From a Visitor -
Another intriguing legend indigenous to the Southern coast of France is that Mary Magdalene was the bearer of the "sangraal," the Old French word translated "holy grail." The story says that this woman, the devoted follower of Jesus who was first to encounter him on Easter morning, traveled with a group of family and close friends. Fleeing persecutions of Christians in 42 A.D. They arrived in a boat with no oars after narrowly escaping death during a storm at sea. With them on the boat was an adolescent girl named Sarah, who is commemorated today with a statue and a celebration on her feast day, 24 May, in the little French town of Les Saintes-Marie-de- la-Mer. This child is called "Sarah the Egyptian" and her statue is black. The legend assumes that this child was a serving girl to the three Maries-- Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobi--who are celebrated for bringing Christianity to the Roman province known as Gaul. A colorful Gypsy folk festival has grown up around this legend which celebrates the arrival of these refugees from Jerusalem, including Lazarus and Martha, the brother and sister of the Mary known to Christians as "the Magdalene."
My Response -
Yes if only we knew more about this Sarah :)