April 5th, 2012

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Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Christian feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week and is followed by Good Friday.

The Last Supper (Restored) by Leonardo Da Vinci, 1495
Photo credit: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/last_supper.htm

The Last Supper by Tintoretto, 1592
Photo credit: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/last_supper.htm

The Maundy Thursday celebrations in the United Kingdom today involve the Monarch (since 1952, Queen Elizabeth II) offering "alms" to deserving senior citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign's age). These coins, known as Maundy money or Royal Maundy, are distributed in red and white purses. This custom dates back to King Edward I. The red purse contains regular currency and is given in place of food and clothing. The white purse contains currency in the amount of one penny for each year of the Sovereign's age. Since 1822, rather than ordinary money, the Sovereign gives out Maundy coins, which are specially minted 1, 2, 3 and 4 penny pieces, and are legal tender. Until the death of King James II, the Monarch would also wash the feet of the selected poor people. There is an old sketch, done from life, of Queen Elizabeth I washing people's feet on Maundy Thursday.

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Madox Brown, 1852-6