23-29 March 1415: Holy Week

The Entry into Jerusalem

By Dan Spencer

This week saw the celebration of Holy Week which preceded Easter.

24 March 1415 was Palm Sunday which was the start of Holy Week, which was the start of a long period of religious events. The previous week the clergy had exchanged their white robes for red ones on Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday was a day for the blessing of branches, to celebrate Christ’s journey into Jerusalem. In urban parishes and cathedrals it was also commonplace for choirs to sing the Passion. The following day was known as Lady Day, or the Feast of the Annunciation, which commemorates the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, who informed her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ.

Public ceremonies and recitations were a feature of Holy Week, on Wednesday (27 March) a passage from the bible regarding the rending of the veil in the Temple was recited and the cloth hung before the high altar was torn down. On this day Henry was in Westminster where he made a grant to Thomas, prior of the convent of St. Mary and St. Thomas the Martyr in Newark, for certain rights concerning the church of Ewelle in Surrey. At the same time he also appointed his servant, Roger Assent, to the office of forester and rider of the forest and chase of Cank in Stafford.

The next day of Holy Week was Maundy Thursday, the Feast of the Last Supper, when Christ washed the feet of his disciples. Since the thirteenth century it had been customary for English kings to wash to feet of poor people. Henry V would also have given gifts of robes and money to paupers, a custom which had existed since 1361, when Edward III decided to give gifts to as many poor people as he had years of life. The week ended with Good Friday, the commemoration of the crucifixion and entombment of Christ. This was also a day when the king would bless ‘cramp rings’ which were given to epileptics.

This information came from Ronald Hutton, The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 20-2, 57; Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 1413-1416, pp. 307, 321.

Image of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, taken from Wikipedia and is in the Public Domain