The tradition behind Maundy Thursday

15 April 2014 - 05:14am
Edited by Monique Turnbull - Spotted an Error?


The Queen is to visit Blackburn on Thursday, for a Maundy Thursday service at Blackburn Cathedral. Arriving at the local train station shortly before 11am, The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will be driven down the Boulevard and Church Street to the Cathedral for the historic service, but what is the tradition behind this?


This year, Easter Sunday falls on 20th April, so Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before this (17th April), marking the three-day Christian celebration which begins Easter.

Also known as Holy Thursday, it commemorates the day that Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover with his Apostles; it would indeed be His Last Supper.

On Maundy Thursday, food and clothing were handed out to the needy, and until 1689, the king or queen would wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey, though they were ‘pre-washed’ by Yeoman of the Laundry before they had to wash them and kiss them! This was to replicate Jesus washing the feet of His disciples at The Last Supper.



The ‘almsgiving’ tradition – which dates back to Edward I in the 13th century – continues nowadays with Her Majesty The Queen, as she gives Maundy money to senior citizens, one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign’s age. This Thursday, therefore, The Queen will distribute Maundy money to 88 men and 88 women pensioners of Blackburn.

At the service, Yeomen of the Guards will carry Maundy money in red and white leather purses on golden trays on their heads; the red purse is money instead of food and clothing, while the money in the white purse is the Maundy coins.

The pensioners, who have been recommended for their contribution to the church and the community, will receive one of each purse; the white purse will contain 88p, to represent the age of The Queen, and the red usually contains a commemorative coin of some sort, perhaps to celebrate Prince George’s birth last year.

This event takes place whilst Her Majesty is holding court at Windsor Castle for the month, where she usually only stays at weekends, and her schedule will include hosting dignitaries for dinner, as well as staying the night.

photo credits: lizsmith via photopin cc and clare_and_ben via photopin cc

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