The Easter Story of Mary Magdalene

When the egg turned red

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Eastern Orthodox icons often depict Mary Magdalene holding a red egg.

Many Christians remember Mary Magdalene as the repentant prostitute who followed Jesus Christ while he was still alive. Traditions also say that she was present at Christ's death on the cross and was the first to meet him after he rose from the dead.

Legend says that after the resurrection Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor Tiberius in Italy. During dinner she told him about Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. She held up an egg and said, "Christ has risen!"

Tiberius scoffed at her and said that no one could rise from the dead anymore than the egg she held could turn red. Immediately the egg turned red.

What happened to Mary Magdalene is up for debate. According to the Greek Orthodox Church she retired to Ephesus in modern-day Turkey, where she died. In 886 the church transferred her relics to Constantinople.

A French tradition maintains, however, that Mary Magdalene came to Marseilles with companions that included Lazarus and converted the whole of Provence. She retired to La Sainte-Baume where she gave herself up to a life of penance. The church there claims to have preserved her head; a claim that made the church a pilgrimage center.