A Church in Sad Condition
By Fr. Cristobal Vilaroig
On July 4, 1187, the Crusaders were defeated definitively in the Horns of Hattin. The Holy Land returned to the hands of the Muslims. Christian holy places started falling into oblivion, and their destiny was abandonment and deterioration.
One hundred years after the Muslim conquest, a German Dominican friar called Burchard of Mount Zion, passed by the plain of Gennesaret. He testified that the Magdalene’s house was preserved in “Magdalum”. Burchard was able to find the house and visit it, but he does not mention the state he found it. A decade later, in 1294, Ricoldus de Monte Crucis left in writing the impression he took when he saw the church of Magdala: “We arrived at Magdalum, the village of Mary Magdalene, next to Lake Gennesaret. There we cried and mourned because we found a beautiful church that, although was not destroyed, had been transformed into a stable. There we sang and preached about the Gospel of the Magdalene”. We must confess that Ricoldus’ text is not entirely clear, and perhaps, instead of “transformed into a stable”, we should translate it to “blocked with planks”. In any case, the reaction of these pilgrims confirms that the Church of the Magdalene was already in such a state, that ripped away tears from those present.
1294 will be the year in which, for the last time, a Church in Magdala is mentioned. It will be necessary to wait until 2014 to see again Christian pilgrims raising their voices to God in a church in Magdala. And this time they will no longer sing dirges, but hymns of joy.