The Exploring Medieval Mary Magdalene project is an online collection of digital editions containing the legend of Mary Magdalene’s conversion. The project began as the focus of a year-long graduate student seminar held in Harvard’s German Department and conducted by Prof. Racha Kirakosian. Together, this team of philologists and digital humanists has striven to make available the linguistically diverse manuscripts containing this little-known legend in an interactive and fully-searchable format that surpasses the limitations of traditional printed critical editions.

While the study of this particular legend and its manuscripts that this project enables will be in and of itself important for medievalists, Germanists, and codicologists, our team at Harvard has created this resource with an eye to establishing a set of standards for the creating digital editions from manuscripts in order to ease the way for future scholarly efforts in digitalization. Conforming to existing TEI guidelines, our team has established a set of best practices useful for the TEI tagging of textual phenomena ranging from variant spellings and punctuation to scribal corrections and editorial interpolations. These standards and the full TEI code of each digitalized text is available on the “Editorial Principles” and “TEI Documentation” sections of this website.

The Manuscripts and the Legend

The vernacular legend of Mary Magdalene’s conversion attributed to Pseudo-Isidore and circulating in the Lower Rhine area in the Middle Ages has been transmitted in eight different 15th to 16th centuries manuscripts. A critical edition of the texts in question has not been provided yet despite great interest in the material. Written in at least four different Germanic dialects, the texts go all back to one source but they are so called “siblings,” meaning that no hierarchy can be drawn between the versions. This circumstance and the manuscript material itself have hindered scholars from editing the text in the print medium which itself is not suitable for representing the actual transmission. A digital application, however, will perfectly accommodate the complex transmission by allowing an interactive use with the edited texts. Users will be able to generate different types of edition, for example an edition which takes all comparable variants into account or an edition based on a specific text version with variants of manuscripts which the user may choose from a menu. In addition, the texts will be linked to the manuscripts’ images (via Mirador). This digital outcome will be the basis for many research projects as it will be available online. In the future, it can potentially be extended to include Latin versions of the same legend. Linking the online edition to manuscript images will be a truly innovative way to combine different tools: the user will be as close as possible to the “real” primary source despite using an edited text. The project’s impact will also be conceptual as it will serve as an example for similar editions and as it will invite future collaborations with partner institutes. The built application will be able to grow and include other editing projects.


The project would not have been possible without the generous support from the Barajas Dean’s Innovation Fund for Digital Arts and Humanities of Harvard University. We are indebted to Cole Crawford (Humanities Research Computing Specialist) and Rashmi Singhal (Interim Director of Arts & Humanities Research Computing) who have been a tremendous support and source of advice.  Joe Wolf (Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard, and Robert Rößler (Germanic Languages and Literatures, Harvard) have assisted as Digital Teaching Fellows. Special thanks goes to Prof. Jeffrey C. Witt (Loyola University of Maryland Philosophy Department) for generously sharing his TEI-editor and for general advice.

Please direct all inquiries to Racha Kirakosian


General Bibliography

Mary Magdalene

Madeleine Boxler, ‘“ich bin ein predigerin und appostlorin”: die deutschen Maria Magdalena-Legenden des Mittelalters (1300-1550): Untersuchungen und Texte’ (Thesis doctoral–Universität Zürich, 1996).

Hans Hansel, Die Maria-Magdalena-Legende. Eine Quellen-Untersuchung. Bottrop 1937 (Diss. Greifswald 1931).

Racha Kirakosian, ‘Rhetorics of Sanctity: Christina of Hane in the Early Modern Period with a Comparison to a Mary Magdalene Legend’, Oxford German Studies, 43.4 (2014), 380–399

Racha Kirakosian, Die Vita der Christina von Hane, Untersuchung und Edition. Hermaea NF 144 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2017)

C.G. N. De Vooys, De legende ›van sunte maria magdalena bekeringhe‹. In: Tiijdschrift voor nederlandsche Taal-en Letterkunde 24 (1905),16–44

Werner Williams-Krapp, Maria Magdalena. In: 2VL 5 (1985), col. 1258–1264; 2VL 11 (2004), col. 967–977.

Werner Williams-Krapp,Die deutschen und niederländischen Legendare des Mittelalters. Studien zu ihrer Überlieferungs-, Text-und Wirkungsgeschichte (Texte und Textgeschichte 20). Tübingen 1986



Bischoff, Bernhard, Paläographie des römischen Altertums und des abendländischen Mittelalters, Grundlagen der Germanistik; 24, 3., unveränderte Aufl. (Berlin: ESchmidt, 2004)

Derolez, Albert, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology; 9, 1st pbk. ed. (Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Kümper, Hiram, Materialwissenschaft Mediävistik: eine Einführung in die historischen Hilfswissenschaften, Uni-Taschenbücher;8605 (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2014)


Digital Editing

Andreotti Saibene, Maria Grazia, and Marina Buzzoni, Medieval Texts-Contemporary Media: The Art and Science of Editing in the Digital Age(Como [etc.]: Ibis, 2009)

Andrews, Tara L. (Tara Lee), and Caroline Macé, Analysis of Ancient and Medieval Texts and Manuscripts: Digital Approaches, Lectio (Brepols (Firm)); 1 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2014)

Apollon, Daniel, Claire Belisle, Philippe Régnier, Daniel Apollon, Claire Belisle, and Philippe Régnier, Digital Critical Editions, Topics in the Digital Humanities (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014) <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Bancroft Library, Digital Scriptorium.([Berkeley, Calif.]: Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1997) <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Boot, Edited by Peter, Anna Cappellotto, Wout Dillen, Franz Fischer, Aodhán Kelly,Andreas Mertgens, and others, Advances in Digital Scholarly Editing. Papers Presented at the DiXiT Conferences in The Hague, Cologne, and Antwerp, 1970 <> [accessed 22 May 2017]

Burnard, Lou, ‘The Evolution of the Text Encoding Initiative: From Research Project to Research Infrastructure’, Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 2013 <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Ciotti, Fabio, and Francesca Tomasi, ‘Formal Ontologies, Linked Data, and TEI Semantics’, Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 2016 <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Ciula, Arianna, and Francesco Stella, Digital Philology and Medieval Texts, Arti Spazi Scritture. Filologia Latina Medievale e Umanistica; 4 (Ospedaletto (Pisa): Pacini, 2007)

Dee, Stella, ‘Learning the TEI in a Digital Environment’, Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 2014 <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Denbo, Michael Roy, and Renaissance English Text Society, New Ways of Looking at Old Texts. V, Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 2007-2010, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies (Series); v. 456 (Tempe, Arizona: ACMRS, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, in conjunction with Renaissance English Text Society, 2014)

Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures.(Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012) <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Driscoll, Matthew James, and Elena Pierazzo, Digital Scholarly Editing: Theories and Practices, Digital Humanities Series; v. 4 (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2016)

Ives, Maura, Victor Del Hierro, Bailey Kelsey, Laura Catherine Smith, and Christina Sumners, ‘Encoding the Discipline: English Graduate Student Reflections on Working with TEI’, Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 2013 <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Johnston, Michael (Michael Robert), and Michael Van Dussen, The Medieval Manuscript Book: Cultural Approaches, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature; 94 (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015)

Pierazzo, Elena, Digital Scholarly Editing: Theories, Models and Methods(Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015)

Schmidt, Desmond, ‘Towards an Interoperable Digital Scholarly Edition’, Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 2014 <> [accessed 19 May 2017]

Turska, Magdalena, James Cummings, and Sebastian Rahtz, ‘Challenging the Myth of Presentation in Digital Editions’, Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative, 2016 <> [accessed 19 May 2017]