FutureChurch begins its 2022 celebration of the Feast Day of Saint Mary of Magdala with a virtual art tour, comparing artistic depictions of Mary Magdalene in the East and West and two homilies that helped to shape those cultural and artistic imaginations.
The misidentification of Mary as reformed public sinner achieved official standing in a homily delivered by Pope Gregory I (540-604). Henceforth, Mary of Magdala became known in the west, not as the strong woman leader who accompanied Jesus through a tortuous death, first witnessed his Resurrection, and proclaimed the Risen Savior to the early church, but as a wanton woman in need of repentance and a life of hidden (and hopefully silent) penitence. The Eastern church, however, never identified her as a prostitute, and honored her throughout history as “the Apostle to the Apostles.” Dr. Axen’s presentation explores how these disparate treatments influence artistic representations of Mary Magdalene.
Dr. Christine Axen, Ph.D. is a medievalist with a specialization in French religious history and female religiosity in the Middle Ages. She received her doctorate from Boston University, and currently teaches art history at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. She also gives guided tours of the Met Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and is interested in the depiction of women in medieval art, and the messages that art conveys about social order.