Bérenger Saunière and the ‘Jesu medela vulnerum’ inscription

Paul Smith

12 January 2008
Updated 21 November 2014

Bérenger Saunière’s replacement 1887 Main Altar includes a bas-relief depiction of Mary Magdalene bearing the following Latin inscription (stolen in 1976 and recently replaced):

That is also included amongst the prayers, hymns, missals etc allotted to St Mary Magdalene on her Feast Date of 22 July, found in the Breviarium Romanum:

From Marie Pellechet, Notes Sur Les Livres Liturgiques des Dioceses d'Autun, Chalon et Macon (Paris: H. Champion, 1883), page 370

A more literal translation of the Latin text would read:

Only Son of God most high,
Look down upon us with your pious face,
While calling us to the cradle of glory
Is the penitent heart of Mary Magdalen.
The coin once lost shall lie
Hidden in the royal treasury,
And the jewel, washed clean of its stain,
Shall conquer the stars with its heavenly lustre.
Jesus, remedy against all our pains,
The only hope for the penitent,
Through the tears of Magdalen
Thou washest away our sins.
Most pious mother of God,
Us, the weeping descendants of Eve
From the stormy waters of life
Thou bringest to a safe haven.
Glory to the One True God,
For his manifold graces
Who the offences of the penitent
Remits and gives them their just reward.

Noël Corbu (1912-1968) pointing to the Latin inscription on Saunière’s Main Altar (Tout Savoir, Number 58, page 28, January 1958).

Detail to part of background on the Magdalene bas-relief, as it was published in Gérard de Sède’s book L’Or de Rennes in 1967. The bas-relief has been retouched and restored several times over the decades, both officially and unofficially