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The Other Mary: The Absence of Mary Magdalene in the Santa Maria in Trastevere

The Other Mary: The Absence of Mary Magdalene in the Santa Maria in Trastevere

By Briana Camp

The Eagle Feather, Vol. 8 (2011)

Abstract: Ancient Rome is well known for its prostitution even as Christian conversion was on a rise throughout the medieval era. None the less, there is a distinct gap in research on medieval Christian art, particularly in Trastevere Rome, its relation to prostitution during that time, and how prostitution influenced religious art within the walls of the Santa Maria basilica. This basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the only female depicted in the series of mosaics by Pietro Cavallini. The church makes a covert statement by not displaying other women saints such as Mary Magdalene—an extremely significant female figure in Christianity. Avoiding images of Mary Magdalene and visually emphasizing the Madonna throughout the church was a clear, intentional device to promote their philosophy which forbids salvation or redemption after prostitution and promiscuous activity. The church depicts the Virgin as a rhetorical figure for abstinence through Pietro Cavallini’s mosaic, Coronation of the Virgin. My research examines the social context throughout Rome during the medieval era, the status of prostitution, spatial analysis of Trastevere, and the inevitable entrance of promiscuity through the Santa Maria Basilica in Trastevere.

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