Eve and Mary: The Search for Lost Beauty and Sensuality


My discovery of the sincerely hidden medieval sculpture of “Eve inside the Garden of Eden” on a church capital in the Basilica of Mary Magdalene at Vézelay, Burgundy, eastern France, sets the scene. This Eve sculpture evolves into a springboard for exploring intensively some of the large ancient and cultural subject matters. The statue itself is unique for its time as it displays a sudden 3-dimensional realism in artwork and is provocative in its nudity – traits which stand in comparison to and damage with the five hundred yr vintage lifestyle of medieval art, which is in the fundamental flat, elongated and non-realistic. However, something of its artistic shape, we cannot get away from the sculpture’s ominous Christian message of unique sin and the damning of the human race putting human society on a completely troubling foundation.


Yet, the sculpture’s clean, creative style leads us again to the realism of the thousand years of Greco-Roman background, which had been excised for most of the Middle Ages. At the same time, the cause of Medieval art was to function as a didactic tool for helping to expose the divine and draw one closer to God; the previous Greco-Roman inventive culture indulged in providing aesthetic pride. Apart from its avant-garde imaginative breakthrough, another equally crucial truth is Eve’s location within the town of Vézelay in a church devoted to Mary Magdalene. Could the sculpture connect to Mary Magdalene or Vézelay, or possibly to both Mary and Vézelay? It changed into Eve’s area inside the Magdalene Church, which led me to analyze whether such a linkage existed between Eve and Mary. The New Testament hardly ever mentions Mary Magdalene, and when it does, the text is often vague and biased. So I explored the Apocryphal (excluded gospels) Christian resources, which revealed that Mary Magdalene changed into genuine ways more important to the rise of Christianity than generally became universal by using the mainstream. She became Jesus’ closest follower and buddy, proving to be more loyal and brave than any of the apostles, specifically Peter. Amazingly, she overshadowed Peter in all she did.

However, Mary’s prominence and impact on Jesus’ fans later terrified the Church Fathers lest she accrues an excessive amount of strength, for she surely led the band of dispirited followers after Jesus’ death. And Christianity’s survival owes a huge debt to her. As a result, the Church Fathers disregarded energy sharing with girls and refused to accept something but a male-ruled church. This came to a head within the early sixth century when Pope Gregory 1 the Great made a decisive reaction to Mary’s ever-growing effect. After winning autocratic authority as the only nonsecular and secular Western leader, he disgraced Mary Magdalene’s historic photo by emphasizing her sinfulness and calling her nothing but a harlot. From phrases to motion, he took the intense degree of disposing of her and all her symbolic saintliness from the Christian matrix.

Pope Gregory’s assault on Mary turned into an assault on the original Christian moral and egalitarian technique to ladies in Christ’s time and mainly abused Christ himself, who befriended Mary. As her intimacy with Jesus induced jealousy among some apostles and competitiveness with Peter, Gregory’s approach to Mary turned into burying the competition with Peter. And now, from the higher echelons of the Church, the message of Mary’s dismissal, as well as the accompanying emphasis on Sin and Salvation, Heaven and Hell, had nevertheless to clear out down to the hundreds – and this turned into achieved typically via an omnipresent fashion of novel artwork to an illiterate population. And so, a unique medieval artwork fashion changed into born.

I felt I had to get familiar with the deserted one thousand years of antique Greco-Roman creative heritage to recognize medieval artwork. So I prompt the source of Western painting – Greece, to find out the authentic art shape, appreciate its adulation and centrality of the human frame and its enormous superb buildings, and breathe the overriding loose spirit permitting all of it to manifest. Greece gave me the know-how and insights into that lost background of Western art, allowing me to pursue the changed modern medieval art shape.

In the fifth and 6th centuries, the ideas and free spirit of the Greco-Roman history in all its components changed step by step stifled utilizing the Church Fathers. The former liberal ecosystem was now changed with a censorious authoritative political-religious gadget. Consequently, the previous pride of the human frame changed and was replaced by a technique of shame that considered the body sinful and inferior and merely the temporary casing of the immortal human soul.

The new Christian art shape reflects the change in the method of the human frame. The artwork style now became flat, two-dimensional, and elongated. It is currently not aimed toward supplying aesthetic delight; however, as an alternative, it has become a didactic device for depicting and handing over messages of a divine nature. The art form’s essence has now become inundated with portrayals of Heaven and Hell. Medieval life developed into an age of angst, watching for the soul’s destiny after its demise. At the Last Judgment, would the soul be weighed to Salvation or Hell? And the horror of Hell turned into implacable. So ordinary lifestyles became bound up in the subject of sin, and sin became associated, of course, with intercourse and beauty. In all likelihood, looking forward to us, the fantastic descriptions of fate had been depicted in ubiquitous sculptures and other artwork paperwork.

The Greco-Roman artwork’s historical past became no longer the most effective loss to the Western international. Simultaneously to the displacement of Western art with the brand new medieval art shape, the image and cultural-religious history of Mary Magdalene are deleted from the Christian Matrix. She cannot interfere with shopping Christian souls, and her symbolic empathy and mercy vanished too – or, as an alternative, is deliberately diminished out of records. Let us discover what Mary had finished after Christ died on the Cross and left his band of followers leaderless.

Various sources imply that Mary Magdalene left the Holy Land like the Apostles to spread the Gospel. One tradition holds that she made her Emperor Tiberius in Rome to Christianize the Roman Empire (300 years too early). Another claims she made her domestic in Ephesus in Turkey. A stranger story even claims she reached Glastonbury in southern England. Yet, the South of France became the most agreed-upon vacation spot and supposedly still holds her stays today. Therefore, I chose to follow Mary’s footsteps and think about the combination of testimony and folklore. I went to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, no longer far from Marseilles on the French Mediterranean coast where she had supposedly landed and preached. After converting the locals to Christianity, she visited the Sainte Baume Mountains, approximately fifty kilometers north. Arriving at the Sainte Baume region, I hiked up the steep path to the cave, wherein Mary persisted in transforming the pagans to Christianity and made her very last home. The magical cave holds a reliquary with some of her physical stays.

Mary’s preaching centered on disposing of paganism inside the Roman world, specifically Venus and the cult of the Vestal Virgins. For Roman society, the perception of the god Venus led at once to the cult of the Vestal Virgin. The worship of the Vestal Virgins emphasizes the enormous value placed on bodily girl beauty in Roman society. Although the Church made compromises and commonplace positive pagan thoughts, it had to dispose of Venus. So, loads of years earlier than her dismissal from Christianity’s mainstream, Mary Magdalene was exploited by the Church Fathers as an alternative for Venus, whose very last suppression came with Rome’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century. The worship of 1 female against some other turned into manipulation by using the Church to raise the importance of Mary Magdalene. Mary’s divine splendor (her physical splendor became no longer completely veiled) vied in opposition to Venus’ bodily beauty. Divine love sooner or later wins – Mary is positive!

And so, for the next two hundred years, Mary and her symbolism imbued with divine powers replaced Venus. The Christian idea of holy, nonsecular beauty is gradually made concrete in artwork and icons. Mary is mentioned as emanating virtues of compassion and empathy and is also worshiped for owning the mysterious power to intercede divinely and keep souls. Following my go-to, Sainte Baume, I went to the neighboring Church of St. Maximin, where Mary Magdalene is interred. Deep down within the Church’s crypt lies the sarcophagus, cranium veiled behind a loss of life masks, and a lovely reliquary containing extra of her physical relics, which leads me back once more to the Basilica of Mary Magdalene in Vézelay, loads of miles away to the east in Burgundy where I had seen several Mary’s relics too.

And why turned the Church at Vézelay devoted to Mary Magdalene when she had died at Sainte Baume and been interred at Saint-Maximin? I located the solution to be – relics – and their significance for medieval churches. Relics raised the Church’s status, positioned it on the pilgrim map, and brought in regular earnings. And so some of her relics at St. Maximin had been stolen and taken to Vézelay. But why would there be a need to devote the Church to Mary Magdalene if she were removed from the Christian matrix? The answer was that we had reached the High Middle Ages, and Mary was being reintroduced through famous demand. The Basilica of Vézelay, dedicated to Mary Magdalene, became the legit stamp of approval for her rehabilitation.

Mary’s return to the Christian matrix also became engineered with the aid of a usual wind of trade. It happened between the eleventh and 14 centuries in Europe while a standard transformation occurred, such as a relaxation of hysteria and angst. Among such beneficial impacts had been the upward thrust of universities, the creation of courtly love and romance, an agricultural revolution, a demographic upward push, and more. Yet Mary Magdalene’s iconic go back also came with a warning, and this became brought inside the numerous works of art in which Mary could be viewed conserving or being near a skull. Finally, Mary’s cranium is revealed in public in a church parade on Saint’s Day in July. Mary’s skull, now not the handiest, symbolizes dying; however, it highlights the triviality of the material global, an international tainted with sin, elevating the significance of salvation.