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Statue of St Mary Magdalene, Spain, 1601-1750

Dressed in a Hessian robe as a repentant sinner, with a skull and an alabaster jar at her feet, St Mary Magdalene is often represented in this pose, usually with a cross. The wooden statue is painted. Traditionally, among Catholics, Mary Magdalene has been invoked against plague, ulcers and to look after ill children. Mary is also the patron saint of repentant women. Many Catholics believe that saints can protect against ill health and may help cure specific diseases.

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Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

Glossary: ulcer

An open sore caused by erosion of the body surface. An ulcer can occur on the inside or outside of the body. The two most common types are mouth ulcers and stomach ulcers.