The Elevation of the Magdalen
Peter Strüb the Younger (Master of Messkirch)
Tempera on panel
The Bergmann Richards Memorial Fund and the Fiduciary Fund
Mary Magdalene, her sister, Martha, and her brother, Lazarus, were set adrift in a rudderless open boat by some people who did not
share their belief in the Christian messiah, Jesus. They floated for many days and nights until the wind and waves carried them to the
shores of Provence in southern France.1 The local people did not share the beliefs of the castaways and refused them food and shelter.
The tattered group finally found refuge in a pagan temple. There, Mary and Martha preached the word of Jesus, performed miracles, and
converted thousands of the people to their faith.
Mary regretted many of the things she had done in her youth. Wishing to repent, she devoted herself to a life of solitary contemplation in
the wilderness. For thirty years she lived as a hermit in a cave prepared for her by angels. Over time, her clothes rotted away and her
hair grew and grew until it covered her entire body.
The artist chose to depict an event in the last years of Mary's life. A host of angels lifted her to heaven seven times a day, allowing her
a glimpse of eternal bliss.2 One day a hermit witnessed the event and brought news of it to the nearby city of Marseilles. Mary then
died and her soul rose to heaven. After her death, Mary continued to perform miracles for those who prayed to her.
1 According to an earlier version of this legend (current in the East around 700 AD), the group was put
out to sea in a rudderless boat, landing miraculously in Cyprus, where Lazarus became a bishop.
2 At this point the story is crossed with another Mary, St. Mary of Egypt, a penitent
prostitute who retired to the desert in solitude. There her clothes fell to pieces, but her hair grew so thickly that she was
covered by it. After 47 years in the desert, she received Holy Communion from a monk and died.