In Christianity, figure close to Jesus.
Mary is presented as a friend, and sometimes as a prominent disciple. Some theories even makes the lover, or wife of Jesus. Mary appears as an important figure in both canonical as well as apocryphal gospels.
Her names means that she came from the town Magdala, near Tiberias (modern Israel).
She is a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches. Her feast day July 22. The Lutheran church commemorates her on the same day.
Issues with identification
There are potentially three Marys in the Gospels. Jesus' mother, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene. In some texts, it is not clear which one is mentioned. Most Christian traditions consider the one who anointed Jesus' feet (Mary of Bethany) and Mary Magdalene as two separate persons. There are passages mentioning an unnamed woman who either had been unfaithful or was a prostitute, like Luke 7:36-50 and John 8:3-11. Many theories identify Mary with the woman of these accounts. Pope Gregory 1 claimed in the middle of the 6th century that Mary Magdalene was identical with Mary of Bethany. Despite that he claimed her to have been a prostitute, it still inspired long-lasting cults in her name.
Mary is by some scholars identified with the Beloved Disciple, who is also called the disciple that Jesus loved, mentioned in the Gospel of John. Still, there are passages in which Mary meets this very disciple.
Mary attained great importance among certain groups of early Christians. Gnostics and some non-Gnostic groups considered her as a medium of secret revelation. This is reflected in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of Philip and the Pistis Sophia.
A few legends in the Eastern Orthodox churches and particularly Greek Orthodox links Mary Magdalene with the Easter egg tradition. Mary supposedly placed a basket of eggs underneath Jesus on the cross, and these backe soaked in his blood.
Life story according to the New Testament
First we hear of Mary mentioned by name is from Luke 8:2, as a woman who had been cleansed of seven demons; a detail also mentioned in Mark 16:9. Some interpretations make this the cleansing of sins, other a cure from a physical disorder.
All gospels agree that she witnessed the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. According to John (19:25-26) she stood next to Virgin Mary and an apostle that Jesus loved, while Jesus was on the cross.
On Easter morning, Mary visited Jesus' tomb together with two other women, only to find it empty. She would then run to inform the disciples that the resurrection had happened, where after she become the first person to see the resurrected Jesus (Mark 16:9-10 and John 20:14-17).
Life story with other traditions
Tradition in the Eastern church tells that Mary accompanied John the Evangelist to Ephesus, where she was buried.
French tradition tells that she evangelized Provence and spent the last 30 years of her life in a mountain cave.
A few Medieval European legends have made her Jesus' wife. This was also a central theme in the extremely successful novel DaVinci Code by American author Dan Brown from 2003.