What Happened To Mary
What the New Testament Tells Us
Nothing. After the resurrection Mary is not mentioned by name in any of the gospels, though we can assume she is among the disciples who are mentioned without naming them in the last two chapters of John, and in the first two chapters of the Book of Acts, especially among the unnamed women.
What the Non-Canonical Ancient Writings Tell Us
The non-canonical writings show Mary continuing as a leader among the disciples, teaching, preaching, and healing. She runs into conflict with Peter, who is jealous of her and disapproving of women in general, and of female church leaders in particular.
What Church Tradition Tells Us
Church tradition holds that after the resurrection of Jesus, Mary went to Ephesus, in Asia Minor, with the Apostle John and Mary of Nazareth. The house where Mary the Mother of Jesus is supposed to have lived still stands in Ephesus. According to tradition, Mary Magdalen died and was buried in Ephesus, and in 899 AD the Emperor Leo VI had her relics transferred to a monastery in Constantinople.
What the Legends Tell Us
Beginning at least as early as the Sixth Century AD, a legend grows that Mary Magdalen was set adrift off the coast of Palestine in a boat without rudder, oar, or sail, off the coast of Palestine, with Lazarus and Martha of Bethany, Salome the mother of John, Maximin, Joseph of Arimathea, and others whose names vary from account to account. According to this legend the boat carried them to the southern shore of France, where they were cast ashore at the mouth of the Rhone, at what is now Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, in the Camargue.
The “French Legend”, which is rich and complex, can be found in the medieval collection The Golden Legend, and is available in several versions online. According to this legend, Mary met a French prince and his wife, who at first resisted conversion, but who became Christians when Mary miraculously brought the princess and her son back to life after they had been given up for dead. Leaving Mary of Bethany and Mary Salome at the mouth of the Rhone, where they founded a church, Mary traveled with the rest of her companions to Marseilles, where Lazarus was declared the first bishop, then went on with Maximin to what is now Aix en Provence, where Maximin became bishop in his turn. Eventually Mary entered a cave in a mountain overlooking the Plan d’Aups (this cave is still a pilgrimage site today). There she spent her last 30 years, becoming the first female Christian contemplative. Every day angels came and lifted her up to heaven, where she was fed heavenly food, then they brought her back to her cave. As she felt her life drawing to a close, Mary sought out Maximin at what is now St. Maximin la Sainte-Baume, died a glorious death in his presence, and was buried in the crypt under his chapel. There, in the crypt at the 12th Century Basilique Sainte Marie Madeleine, her sarcophagus can still be found beside the tomb of St. Maximin, along with a reliquary containing her head.
Another, more recent legend from the Eastern Church tells us that Mary approached the Roman Emperor Tiberius at a banquet and told him the story of Jesus. Tiberius told her that he would as soon believe this story as he would believe that the egg Mary happened to be holding in her hand would turn red. The egg turned red on cue, but there is no legend that Tiberius became a Christian.