We know clearly from the gospels that Jesus cast out seven demons from her (Lk 8:1-3), she stood at the foot of the cross (Mk 15:40, Mt 27:56 and Jn 19:25), and was present at Christ's burial and the first witness to the resurrection (Jn 20:1-18). But was she also the penitent woman who poured precious oil on Christ's feet and then wiped them with her hair (Lk 7:36-50)? And was she also the sister of Martha and Lazarus who sat listening at Christ's feet while Martha prepared the meal (Lk 10:38-42)? I found an interesting article written by Fr William Saunders of The Catholic Education Resource Center that makes an excellent case to prove that they were indeed the same person! I love it when a mystery is cleared up for me!
But I digress, back to this beautiful medal. It shows St Mary Magdalen gazing reverently upon a cross. Frequently these medals will also show her looking at a skull or with a skull at her feet. The cross and skull are "memento mori", objects that one would contemplate to reflect upon the fleeting aspect of life's pleasures, the ultimate end of life, repentance, and immortality. But the skull and cross are only two of St Mary Magdalene's attributes in art. She is also frequently shown holding a jar or covered chalice containing the oil she poured on Christ's feet. She may also be recognized by her long flowing hair, reminding us of how she used it to wipe the oil from Christ's feet at the home of Simon the leper (Lk 7:36-50).
Many antique religious medals from France that feature St Mary Magdalen won't show the saint's name, but will have the words "Sainte Baume" written on them. This refers to the medieval church of Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume that claims to have the remains of St Mary Magdalen in a reliquary there. French tradition holds that Mary Magdalen fled to France to escape persecution along with two other followers of Christ named Mary and Joseph of Arimathea. There's an entirely different medal made to commemorate that story that you can read about in one of my previous posts: The Holy Maries of the Sea.
You can learn more about this medal by looking at the marks on its ring. On the left is a raised square mark signifying that the medal is plated in sterling silver. The center mark is in the shape of a little crab. This is a French "small guarantee" mark, or "petit poinçon", that was stamped all all small French silver items from 1838 until 1972. It guarantees that the medal is at least .800 silver (80% silver). The third mark is the maker's mark which looks like the letters A and C with a sword or cross between them set in a sideways diamond. It represents the workshop of the artist who created the medal.
St Mary Magdalen is the patron saint of repentants sinners, Catholic converts, glove makers, pharmacists, perfume makers, and against sexual temptation. She was NOT Jesus' wife or girlfriend, the mother of Jesus' child, or the mother of an ancient royal dynasty. There's a reason the book "The DaVinci Code" can be found in the fiction section of your local library....