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Saint Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume

(944 words)

Author(s): Whitney Leeson
On December 9, 1279, the monks of St Maximin, acting upon the advice of Charles of Salerno, Louis IX's nephew and count of Provence, searched their crypt and joyfully discovered the body of Mary Magdalen in the sarcophagus of Saint Sidonius. A parchment, which conveniently disintegrated once read, detailed the transfer of the saint's body on the night of December 6, 710 from her tomb to Sidonius' sarcophagus for safekeeping during the Saracen attacks. The ruse not only fooled the invading Sarace…

Vézelay

(907 words)

Author(s): Whitney Leeson
By the 12th century, Vézelay, which began as a small Benedictine abbey founded in Burgundy by Count Girart de Roussillon and his wife Berthe (ca. 859), had become the largest pilgrimage center in France. The abbey's founders had endowed it richly with lands and rents before donating it to the papacy in 863, an arrangement that provided the new foundation with fiscal and judicial immunity from their feudal overlords, the counts of Nevers, and the bishops of Autun, who controlled the diocese of Se…

Prostitution and Brothels

(914 words)

Author(s): Whitney Leeson
Professional prostitutes provided sexual services and other amenities to pilgrims traveling through their communities, whether in municipally-sponsored or independently-run brothels, inns and taverns, markets, or bathhouses. However, direct evidence that they did so with regularity is limited. Some of the difficulty in determining prostitutes' contribution to the pilgrimage industry lies with the terminology used in the ecclesiastical courts. According to Ruth Mazo Karras, the Latin word meretrix refers to an immoral woman whose illicit sexual behavior include…