Maundy Thursday

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The washing of the feet and the last supper (altarpiece of the Sienese cathedral)

Maundy Thursday (also High Thursday , Holy Thursday, White Thursday or Palm Thursday ) is the German-language name for the fifth day of Holy Week or Holy Week (in liturgical counting, starting with Palm Sunday as the first day of the week). The Christians remember Jesus' last supper with the twelve apostles on the eve of his crucifixion . The liturgical name is Feria quinta in coena Domini ('fifth day at the Lord's Supper').


Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday and is one of the three cartages in the narrower sense. With the celebration of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday evening, the so-called Triduum Sacrum (or Triduum Paschale ) begins , i.e. the celebration of the three Easter days (Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday ). As the day of remembrance of the Last Supper and the associated institution of the Eucharist by Jesus Christ himself, Maundy Thursday has a high place in the liturgy . Since the cartage, due to its fundamental character as days of mourning and the co-execution of the Passion of Jesus, does not allow a special display of splendor, but since the Fourth Lateran Council there has been a special need for the veneration of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the eucharistic figures, in the Catholic Church since the 13th century as the second Eucharistic feast , the feast of Corpus Christi on the second Thursday after Pentecost introduced, which thus has a close connection to the Holy Thursday. In some countries, e.g. B. in Denmark , Norway or Iceland , Maundy Thursday is a public holiday ; This was also the case in parts of the German-speaking area until the 19th century.


The name Maundy Thursday , which originated before the 15th century - according to Kluge-Mitzka around 1200 in Central Germany - is limited in principle to the German (and Czech) language area and is only the most common among several other names there. The dispensation of Green Thursday ( mhd. Grûne dunrestag or grüene donerstac ) has been documented since the 13th century. The Latin term dies viridium (literally "Day of the Greens" - means those freed from sins and church punishments by absolution , in the sense of "renewed, fresh" according to Luke Gospel 23:31: "green wood") was possibly not, as long assumed by linguistics, the model for this German term, but seems to have emerged only in the 17th century.

The origin of the name is not clear, there are four competing theses in particular, which do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive, as several factors may have worked together in the creation of the name:

  1. Derivation from virides ("the greens"), the penitents who were "dry wood" and now on antlastag, the day of the church penance, again (according to Luke 23.31  EU ) the living, "green wood" of the church was and probably became in a white dress, perhaps with a green shawl, went to communion.
  2. Derived from the liturgical color green. Today's color canon of the Roman rite provides for white as the liturgical color for Maundy Thursday, but this color canon was not binding before the 16th century and in many cases differently regulated in the dioceses' own rites. Since the use of the color white in the Maundy Thursday liturgy also gave rise to the name “White Thursday” ( ndl. Witte Donderdag, French jeudi blanc ), the name Green Thursday, Maundy Thursday, could also have arisen from regionally different use of green .
  3. Derivation from the custom, attested since the 14th century, but possibly older, of eating green vegetables ( kale , salads, nettles, young shoots) and green herbs on Maundy Thursday . This is not only in accordance with the general fasting regulations for Holy Week, but also in connection with pre-Christian ideas that this absorbs the power of spring and a healing effect for the whole year. In some regions, Maundy Thursday was also of particular importance for tilling the field and garden, as the day of the first spring sowing or as a day on which one expected particularly rich yields from sowing or from planting or pruning the plants.
  4. Derivation from the “Greinen” ( ahd. Grīnan, mhd. Green, “laughing, whining, crying, twisting the mouth”) of penitents on Maundy Thursday. Orally used but not attested in writing would have resulted in Green Thursday > Maundy Thursday through folk etymological reinterpretation . However, since this day has been a church day of joy since the 4th century, on which the previously excommunicated after repentance and forgiveness were finally allowed to communion again, i.e. again "green wood" on the trunk of the church according to Luke 23:31, the assumption of one appears Lamentation Thursday absurd.

Common Latin names for Maundy Thursday are dies cenae domini ("day of the Lord's Supper"), dies absolutionis ("day of the forgiveness of sins"), dies indulgentiae (" indulgence day "), dies mandati ("day of the washing of the feet ", from which the im English common name Maundy Thursday ), dies azymorum ("day of unleavened bread") or consecratio chrismatis (" Chrism consecration ", which is carried out in the Roman liturgy on this day); In addition, the day can be called quinta feria (“fifth day”) or dies jovis (“Thursday”) with the additions magnus (“great”), sacer (“holy”) or altus (“high”). In other languages, the feast day is usually called "Holy Thursday" (so common in all Romance languages and in addition to Maundy Thursday also in English) or "Great Thursday" (for example in Polish Wielki Czwartek, in Croatian veliki četvrtak and in Hungarian Nagycsütörtök ). In Czech , the day is called "Green Thursday" (zelený čtvrtek) according to the German model , in Dutch, as mentioned, "White Thursday" (Witte Donderdag) . In Scandinavia, the term “pure Thursday” is common ( Swedish skärtorsdagen, Danish skærtorsdag, Norwegian skjærtorsdag, Faroese and Icelandic skírdagur, Finnish (Old Norse loanword) kiirastorstai; too Old Norse skærtorsdag, which meansskír ”), which means “hell” Appointment as a cleansing day or as a day of forgiveness of sins. In some German-speaking regions, the name Antlasstag (“day of release from sins”, “ indulgence day”), which, like the name jeudi absolu previously used in French, is derived from the Latin term dies absolutionis or dies indulgentiae, used to be very common .

In a regionally different way, the Thursday of Easter week (i.e. the Thursday after instead of before Easter) was also referred to as "Green Thursday" ( green Thursday) in Westphalia .


Depiction of the Last Supper by Hans Schäufelin (1480–1538)

Roman Catholic Church

With Maundy Thursday (Feria quinta in Coena Domini) the Triduum Sacrum begins , the three-day commemoration of suffering, death, the rest of the grave and the resurrection of Jesus Christ (" Easter "). It is the highest-ranking Catholic festival. The Triduum begins liturgically in the evening of Holy Thursday with the celebration of the Last Supper and ends with the Vespers of Easter Sunday . The theological idea of ​​the Paschal mystery focuses on the unity of the passion and death of Christ on the cross, his resurrection from the dead and his ascension and exaltation and their visualization in the liturgy .

The Last Supper Mass on Maundy Thursday evening commemorates the institution of the sacrament of the altar (i.e. the Eucharist) and the ordained priesthood . The subsequent simple procession with the holy of holies represents the walk of Jesus to the Mount of Olives , where he prayed in agony and was arrested. In silent adoration before the Holy of Holies, the believers commemorate Jesus' arrest and scourging that night .

Maundy Thursday used to be a day of public forgiveness of sins, especially for penitents who were punished by church . He no longer has this function in the Roman Catholic Church, while this is still partly to be found in Orthodoxy .

Maundy Thursday has a special liturgical character. On Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday in particular , solemnly sung karmets are celebrated with the congregation in cathedral churches. In episcopal churches the consecration of the holy oils ( catechumen oil for baptismal applicants, sick oil for the anointing of the sick and chrism for confirmation and other applications) takes place in the morning as part of the chrism mass by the local bishop. In some dioceses, this service is sometimes postponed to one of the previous days so that the priests from the individual parishes can more easily take part. In general, Maundy Thursday is also considered the feast of the institution of the priesthood . The priests and deacons present renew their promises of consecration at the Christian mass.

In the evening, Mass of the Last Supper is celebrated in all churches. The earliest start is 4 p.m., the latest start 8 p.m. During the Glorias all the bells ring; after that they are silent until the glory of Easter vigil . The use of the organ (and other instruments) between the Gloria of the Last Supper and the Gloria of Easter Vigil should be avoided "if it is not advisable to use the organ and other musical instruments only to accompany the singing". Often ratchets , which replace the bells with their harsh sound during Jesus' suffering, are used for the change and for the sacrament procession after the mass of the last supper.

Washing of feet on Maundy Thursday in St. Aegidius in Wrexham , Welsh , 2007

According to ancient tradition, the rite of washing the feet (mandatum) is also performed in the communities . In the presentation of the Gospel of John ( John 13 : 1–17  EU ), Jesus washed their feet at the meal with his disciples on the eve of his execution and said: “If I, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, then you must too wash one another's feet ”(v. 14). The main celebrant of the Mass of the Last Supper washes the feet of believers following the example of Jesus, to symbolically make it clear that the church office has the character of service and not of government. The willingness to love one's neighbor that is imposed on all is illustrated by collecting gifts for the needy and the poor. In the Middle Ages and beyond, the washing of feet was understood primarily mimetic , that is, as an aftermath of the Gospel; therefore twelve men were washed the feet of the priest. In the Missale Romanum of 1970, the limitation to the number twelve was removed, but the limitation to men was retained. In 2016 Pope Francis allowed the rite in the Mass of the Last Supper to be performed on women.

In order to emphasize the peculiarity of this evening, the words "[On the evening before his suffering] this is today" are added to the words of change in prayer exclusively in this Holy Mass. It is desired and widely accepted by the Church that Holy Communion be given to the congregation under both forms.

After or during Holy Mass, the Holy of Holies is brought to a side altar or chapel in a simple procession to the singing of the hymn Pange lingua gloriosi . The hosts (praesanctification) changed in the mass from the last supper are given to the believers in the communion celebration on Good Friday , as there is no holy mass on this day of mourning . After the service, all ceilings and decorations are removed from the main altar and all other altars with the exception of the one on or near which the Holy of Holies is located. This symbolizes mourning, but is also intended to remind of the tradition that Jesus' clothes were torn from his body.

Through the chanting of Tantum ergo during the transmission of the Holy of Holies, the believer, if he fulfills the relevant provisions, can receive a perfect indulgence .

After the holy mass, the altar is bare in silence. Based on the traditional night watch of the disciples of Jesus on the Mount of Olives, prayer vigils, also known as the Mount of Olives hour , take place in many communities , which in some places last all night. They usually take place directly in front of the altar, on which the Holy of Holies is now located. Adoration should last at least until midnight; at this point the memory of the institution of the Eucharist is replaced by the memory of the Passion of Jesus. The decor of the place should be of "serious simplicity", the adoration after midnight "without any solemnity".

After the service there is a custom in some places to hold an agape (friendship meal) in another place . This meal often unleavened bread (about be Matzen oriental, pita bread or milk bread) and wine or grape juice served. The bread is traditionally shared with one another to commemorate the meal in ( Ex 12.1–8  EU ). In such agapes, the giving love of Jesus Christ should be symbolically experienced and remembered of the Last Supper of Jesus and thus also of the Jewish Passover meal that Jesus and his disciples celebrated according to biblical tradition.

Protestant church

Maundy Thursday is celebrated here with an evening communion service. This service is specially designed in many congregations. Based on today's liturgical renewal movement, attempts are often made to celebrate it as the first day of the Triduum Sacrum during Holy Week .

Old Catholic Church

The liturgy on Maundy Thursday largely corresponds to the Roman rite (see above).

The rubrics of the Eucharist provide the following: After the Gloria, the organ and bells are silent. The Taizé song Ubi caritas can be sung to wash your feet . In the intercessions, the congregations of the own diocese and the ecumenical neighboring congregations should be remembered. The Eucharistic celebration ends with prayer after communion . The blessing is again only as a celebratory final blessing in the Easter Vigil donated. Wherever possible, the opportunity for silent prayer, meditation and reading of Jesus' farewell speeches from the Gospel of John is given.

Orthodox churches

As the Synaxarion expresses, four memorials are celebrated on this Holy and High Thursday : the washing of the feet, the holy (supper) supper, the prayer of Jesus on Gethsemane and the betrayal of the Lord by Judas.

The celebration of this day begins on Wednesday evening after dark with the Orthros , the lauds of the Orthodox churches. As in the previous three cartages, it is celebrated as Nymphios (liturgy of the bridegroom). Its mystical content is expressed by the exapostilarion, a festive chant which is performed by the choir with the iconostasis open and a view of the decorated altar: “I see your bridal chamber adorned, O my Savior. But I don't have a wedding robe to enter. Make the garment of my soul shine, giver of light, and save me! "

On the evening of this Thursday, Vespers will be celebrated in connection with the St. Basil's liturgy . The texts have the topics mentioned in Synaxarion as their content. The washing of the feet is done in monasteries and episcopal churches.

regional customs

Dance of the Dead , Passion Play on Maundy Thursday in Verges in Spain

During the Triduum Sacrum, the ringing of the church bells, which were silenced during the Maundy Thursday liturgy, is replaced by the rattles and rattles until the “Gloria” on Easter Vigil, both at the time of the Angelus and before the start of the services. For this purpose, altar boys in many places pull their ratchets through the streets.

The article Maundy Thursday in the concise dictionary of German superstition lists a large number of Maundy Thursday customs with the associated ideas of popular superstition . In addition to the eating of green vegetables and herbs already mentioned in connection with the explanation of the name and the importance for the cultivation of the field and garden, the practices and ideas that deal with the eggs laid on Maundy Thursday, so-called Maundy Thursday eggs or mauve eggs, should be mentioned , connected.

In Coburg , Easter eggs are still being sought on Maundy Thursday, brought by the “grüa Hoas” (green rabbit). In parts of Upper Lusatia , Maundy Thursday is associated with a custom . Children go from house to house to get sweets with the slogan "Good morning, good morning on Maundy Thursday, put something in a begging sack ...".

In Mühlhausen in Thuringia every Mühlhäuser should eat a baked pretzel on Maundy Thursday, otherwise donkey ears can grow. Some of the pretzels are filled with pudding, similar to a streusel cookie. Even during the GDR era, some schools were allowed to eat this Maundy Thursday pretzel, which was worn around the neck with a ribbon, in class.

In many areas it is customary to eat something green on Maundy Thursday. In Austria it is mainly spinach with fried eggs . Contrary to popular belief, Maundy Thursday is not a strict day of fasting or abstinence under canon law.

The regent washing his feet

In the German Empire, Emperor Charles V first introduced the custom of washing feet by the regent , and this was practiced at the court of the Habsburgs until the end of the monarchy in 1918. A generation later, Duke Wilhelm V (Wilhelm the Pious) took over the custom in Bavaria, and here too it was maintained until the abolition of the monarchy. In modern times only the rulers of Spain, France, Austria and Bavaria adhered to the custom of the regent washing their feet. On this annual occasion, the royal custom developed in England to distribute Maundy money ("Maundy Thursday money ") to the poor when washing their feet . The distribution of the coins to deserving citizens by the queen on Maundy Thursday has been preserved to the present day, but the washing of the feet is no longer carried out.

Weather rules

In the peasant rules for Maundy Thursday it says:

  • If Maundy Thursday is white, summer is sure to be hot.


  • Hans Jeske: Maundy Thursday. The name and its equivalents. In: Linguistics . 11, 1986, ISSN  0344-8169 , pp. 82-109.
  • Hermann Schmidt: Spirit and History of Maundy Thursday . In: Liturgical Yearbook . 3, 1953, ISSN  0024-5100 , pp. 234-252, 260-226.
  • Christiane Wanzeck: On the etymology of lexicalized color word combinations. Investigations using the colors red, yellow, green and blue (=  Amsterdam publications on language and literature 149, also: Diss. Univ. Munich 1996). Rodopi, Amsterdam 2003, ISBN 90-420-1317-6 , chapter Maundy Thursday and other formations , pp. 104–110.

Web links

Commons : Maundy Thursday  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Maundy Thursday  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. the decision of the Cantonal Council [of the Canton of Zurich] regarding the elevation of Good Friday to the high holiday of June 28, 1858, in force since August 20, 1859, according to which "Good Friday [...] instead of high Thursday as the main festival to be raised with the enjoyment of the Lord's Supper, insofar as all the evangelical and parity estates [= cantons] of the Confederation or at least the large majority, namely the German estates, also speak out in favor of it. "
  2. a b German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm, s. v. "Maundy Thursday" .
  3. "donerstac" . In: Friedrich Zarncke / Wilhelm Müller: Middle High German Dictionary (1854-1856).
  4. Matthias Lexer: Middle High German Concise Dictionary (1872–1878), s. v. "Doners-tac" , addenda (1878), see p. v. "Donerstac" .
  5. a b Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language, edit. by Elmar Seebold, 23rd, ext. Edition, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, 1995, s. v. “Maundy Thursday” (p. 341), cf. but 19th edition, edited by Walther Mitzka, Berlin 1963, p. 275.
  6. Paul Sartori: Art. "Maundy Thursday", in: Concise Dictionary of German Superstition, Vol. 3 [1932], unchanged. photomech. Reprint, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York, 2000, pp. 1186–1195, p. 1187 and note 2, based on Carl Adam Heinrich Kellner: Heortology or the historical development of the church year and the feasts of saints from the oldest times to Present, 3rd verb. Ed., Herder, Freiburg / Br. 1911, pp. 51-52.
  7. a b For customs cf. Sartori 1932, § 2, pp. 1187–1188, who does not, however, represent this etymology.
  8. a b Sartori 1932, § 6, pp. 1193-1194.
  9. Kurt Küppers: Art. "Maundy Thursday". In: Lexikon des Mittelalters , Vol. IV [1989], reprint of the 1999 study edition, DTV, Munich, 2003, Sp. 1751–1752.
  10. Svenska Academies ordbok , s. vv. Skärtorsdag and skär adj.¹
  11. Hermann Grotefend: Calculation of the German Middle Ages and the Modern Era (1891–1898). Online version, s. v. "Green Thursday".
  12. ^ German Bishops 'Conference, Berlin Bishops' Conference, Austrian Bishops 'Conference, Swiss Bishops' Conference, the bishops of Luxembourg, Bozen-Brixen, Liège, Metz and Strasbourg (ed.): Ceremonials for the bishops in the Catholic dioceses of the German-speaking area. For the dioceses of the German-speaking area. Authentic edition for liturgical use. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 1998, 2003, 2007, No. 40, ISBN 978-3-7917-1607-7 .
  13. "It is up to the shepherds to select a small group of people who represent not just one category or group, but the whole people of God: lay people, consecrated servants, married, celibate, religious, healthy and sick, children, young people and old people." Congregation for Divine Worship and the Order of the Sacraments : Letter accompanying the Decree Missa in cena Domini (2016)
  14. ^ Instruction of the Congregation for Rites on the correct implementation of the new order of the Holy Week, November 16, 1955, nos. 8-10. - The missal for the dioceses of the German-speaking area. Extract Holy Week and Easter. Freiburg 1976, p. [39].
  15. The celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic Diocese of the Old Catholics . Prepared for use in worship services by the Liturgical Commission and published by the Bishop and Synodal Representation, Bonn: Altkatholischer Bistumsverlag 2006, page 71; ISBN 3-934610-30-7 .
  16. Sartori 1932, passim.
  17. Entry on Maundy Thursday in the Austria Forum  (in the ABC on Austrian Folklore), accessed on January 29, 2012.
  18. Queen distributed coins to deserving citizens. In: , March 24, 2016, accessed on March 24, 2016.