What did the artists of previous centuries know about Mary Magdalene? Was she depicted as the woman at Jesus’ side more often than we suspect – and symbolically coded very deliberately? These and similar questions I ask myself time and again when I enter a church where I see a Mary represented with long red hair and in red-green garments. All are hints at the fact that this is not intended to be Mother Mary but Mary Magdalene, just like in the small church Santa Barbara in A Coruña, ca. 80 km north of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain.

In this specific case she is shown sitting next to Jesus on a cloud, which is indicative of his mother at a first glance. Maybe the commissioner only wanted the glass window to show Mary’s admission into heaven and did not know that the artist painted Mary Magdalene instead of Mary? Or maybe he instructed the artist to depict “Mother Mary” with long red hair in green-red garments, knowing well that he made Mary Magdalene sit next to Jesus by doing so? This always comes to my mind when I see depictions of this kinds in churches.

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