Image courtesy of the Magdala Project. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Image courtesy of the Magdala Project. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

In light of Mary Magdalene's Feast, scholars and archaeologists at Magdala are speaking about her real identity.

Since Pope Francis’ recent decree about Mary Magdalene's feast, Magdala, her hometown, is committed to continue researching and restoring the archaeological finds of her birthplace. The archaeological remains and scientific research, have revealed tangible and real evidence about Mary Magdalene and the life of other followers of Jesus in Galilee.

The archaeological complex has produced historical sources and studies which reveal that Magdala was occupied by influential and wealthy people. Magdala was the largest and main city in Galilee until the foundation of Tiberias in 19 CE (seven miles away from the old Magdala).

Dr. (TJ) Tina Wray, Biblical Scholar from Salve Regina University, USA, explains that “usually, when a town or village is mentioned in connection with a woman’s name in the Bible, it indicates that she is a woman of wealth or higher social status.” This statement would affirm that Mary Magdalene was wealthy and indeed, an influential woman. Wray affirms that “We no longer have to “guess” because now we have real, tangible evidence that Mary was a woman of substance.”

Among the archaeological finds at Magdala were found a large fish industry and fishing accessories, such as forty pools to salt fish, weights, and fish hooks. These discoveries are attributed to the city’s name. “The town´s full name is Magdala Tarichaea (roughly translated as tower where the fish are salted), and not surprisingly, the town is known for its salted-fish industry…This detail provides yet another clue to Mary´s identity,” Dr. Wray says.

Additionally, to the archaeological heritage, the current Magdala site, houses the Duc In Altum center. In the “Women’s Atrium” the dignity of all women is remembered and promoted. The Women’s Atrium is held up by eight marble columns; each one is carved with the names of all the women mentioned in the New Testament who followed Jesus, among them, Mary Magdalene.

Courtesy of the Magdala Project. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Courtesy of the Magdala Project. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Father Juan Solana LC says that “The women´s leadership throughout history must be recognized. Mary Magdalene's and Jesus' encounter, is a clear icon of mercy and love towards all human beings. After having been freed from seven demons, Mary recovers her identity and dignity as a woman.”

Wray added, “I believe that Mary Magdalene is an older, wealthy widow who serves as Jesus' comrade, confidant, and friend. That she is present and bears witness to the two most pivotal events in the Gospels, Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, demonstrates that she is a courageous and steadfast disciple… Through careful reading of the Gospels and other sources, we have begun to recover the true image of Mary Magdalene as Jesus' trusted friend and Apostle.”

Magdala's site is preparing for the upcoming Mary Magdalene Feast. On July 23rd at 11:00 AM GTM+3, a solemn Mass will be presided over by H.E. Msgr. Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Bishop to the Latin Patriarchate in Israel. More than 500 people are expected from the Christian-Arab community, diplomatic corps, friends and many others who would like to attend.

For more information, please visit


Academic sources:

Prof. Marcela Zapata-Meza, Chief Archaeologist, Universidad Anáhuac de México.

Dr. TJ Wray, Biblical Scholar and Associate Professor of Religious and Theological Studies at Salve Regina University, USA, and author of “Good Girls, Bad Girls of the New Testament: Their Enduring Lessons” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).


About Magdala: Magdala is a unique Holy Land site with a first century town where the Jewish residents gathered in a synagogue where Jesus visited and taught. It is home to the beautiful Duc In Altum, which provides a place for worship, Mass, and prayer.

With only 10% of the archaeology uncovered, the hometown of Mary Magdalene already provides pilgrims an authentic location to walk where Jesus taught and to connect with the first century life of Jesus’ followers.

Because of its unique nature, Magdala will actively contribute to building positive relationships with the diverse community of Christian believers and between Christians and Jews. In the coming days, Magdala will feature excellent accommodations, in addition to an expanded archaeological park.

Copyright 2016 Mariana Bravo for the Magdala Project and Extrategia Israel