By Diane Peters
Master’s Thesis, Wilfrid Laurier University, 1990
Abstract: This dissertation focuses on the legends surrounding St. Martha of Bethany. Four major Latin versions are extant, dating from the late twelfth to the mid-thirteenth centuries: the Vita Pseudo-Marcilia, the Vita Beatae Mariae Magdalenae et Sororis Eius Sanctae Marthae, and selected chapters in Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum Historiale and Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda Aurea. In these lives of the saint, traditional material derived from Scripture is supplemented by descriptions of Martha’s legendary life as an early missionary in Provence. The substance of these legends proved extremely influential for art and vernacular literature in the later Middle Ages. The text which follows provides general background material on St. Martha, including an examination of her role in the Gospels, in gnostic literature and in the writings of the early church fathers, and a survey of the origins of the medieval Martha cult in the Christian West. Annotated English translations of the four major Latin lives are provided. Of the four, only the Legenda Aurea was previously available in a modern English translation. A French version of the Vita Beatae Mariae Magdalenae was produced in 1848. The concluding chapter consists of a comparative table of the three texts which are most closely related, namely the Vita Pseudo-Marcilia, and the lives of Martha compiled by Vincent of Beauvais and Jacobus de Voragine.