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Three Marys at the Tomb

christ’s women conversation body

All four Gospels recount that the first people to receive the news of *Christ’s *Resurrection were several women who went to his tomb early in the morning on the third day after his *Entombment, bringing oils and spices to anoint the body. They found the tomb unsealed and the body missing. The Gospel accounts vary as to the number and identities of these women and the events surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb. *Matthew (28:1-8) records their conversation with an *angel who rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. *Mark (16:1-8) identifies them as *Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of Saint *James), and Salome and describes their conversation with a young man clothed in white who was sitting within the tomb. *Luke (24:1-12) states that two men in shining garments spoke to the women when they entered the tomb. *John (20:1-18) describes Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb, her summoning of two *apostles (Saints *Peter and *John), and her later conversation with two angels before Christ’s appearance to her. The Three Marys are commonly understood to be Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, and Mary Cleophas (Clophas), the companions of the Virgin *Mary, who were all present at Christ’s *Crucifixion. The divergences in the Gospel accounts are reflected in the different ways in which the story is depicted in art. The subject appears in Christian art as early as the third century and remained popular throughout the Middle Ages. Two or three women and one or two angels (or men) are shown in conversation by an architectural structure (the *Holy Sepulchre), cave, or an empty sarcophagus with the lid removed. The women may carry jars of ointment (they are also known as the myrophores —bearers of myrrh); the linen cloths in which Christ’s body were wrapped may be shown on the tomb slab or dangling over the sarcophagus. Sometimes the sleeping soldiers (tomb guards) are also present. The scene was among the most common ways of representing Christ’s Resurrection before the later medieval period.

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