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In Search of Mary Magdalene

Massimo Polidoro is an investigator of the paranormal, lecturer, and cofounder and head of CICAP, the Italian skeptics group. His website is at www.massimopolidoro.com.

Was Mary Magdalene the lover of Christ and did she have a son by him? This idea—made popular by The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s wildly successful novel and its film adaptation—has stimulated debates, disputes, and even some serious attempts at historical research in recent years. Today, some claim they have found evidence for the fatherhood of Christ in an ancient fresco preserved in a Templar church at Tempio di Ormelle, near Treviso in northern Italy. Is it true?

The fresco in Tempio Ormelle: Jesus holds a baby, but it is not his son. It actually is a “Dormitio Virginis,” or the death of the Virgin Mary, where Jesus, her son, receives her soul in the form of a baby.

Portrait of a Woman

The figure of Magdalene—a sinner converted by Jesus and turned into one of his most devoted followers— has always stimulated the curiosity and imagination of artists and mystery mongers alike. The hypothesis of her being Jesus Christ’s companion was first suggested long before Brown. “It’s an idea born in the Parisian ‘counterculture’ at the end of the nineteenth century, developed by artists that were protesters and often involved in the occult, who wanted to shake up the conventions,” Mario Arturo Iannaccone, historian of Christianity, told the author in a personal interview. “For example, in 1888, an opera titled The Lover of Christ was performed in Paris. It was written by Darzens and the lover was, obviously, Mary Magdalene. In 1896, a book titled The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) was published; it was an important apocryphal work that helped strengthen feminism. In various novels, Mary Magdalene became a femme fatale. Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, wrote a story about Mary Magdalene and Jesus titled The Risen, filled with double meanings.”

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