After the discovery of the corpse of Mary Magdalene and the official recognition of her relics in 1281, Charles II decided, with the agreement and encouragement of Pope Boniface VIII, who published several papal bulls to this effect, to build a sumptuous basilica in honour of Mary Magdalene and to install there the sons of Saint Dominic.
Construction spans over several periods. The three apses and the first five trusses are achieved in 1345 ; the sixth truss covering the crypt is constructed in 1404 ; the three last ones are finished circa 1525. The central façade and the bell tower, foreseen at the beginning of the south nave, were never built.
Despite its small dimensions (19m2), the crypt is the heart of the basilica. In addition to the reliquary of the « chef » (the head) of Mary Magdalene, it encloses four sarcophagi dating from the second half of the 4th Century.
The reliquary dates from 1860 and replaces the silver and gold one stolen during the Revolution. It contains the saint’s skull. Recently appraised , it is declared to be that of « a small Mediterranean type woman, about sixty years of age. » A crystal tube is sealed to the bottom of the reliquary. It encloses what has always been called the Noli me tangere (Do not touch me) a fragment of skin and bone tissue clinging to Mary Magdalene’s frontal bone on which Christ had placed his fingers on the morning of the Resurrection. This fragment had become detached from the skull during a review of the relics slightly before the Revolution.