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In the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536, Christian charity would come face to face with Mammon

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014

Five wounds of Christ banner on Staff and Scrip, Dr John Dunn. First posted on Friday, 5 April 2013 at 21:47

A banner bearing the Holy wounds of Jesus Christ, which was carried at the Pilgrimage of Grace

In the Pilgrimage of Grace 1536, Christian charity would come face to face with Mammon and ‘the mundane principles of Judaism’*. Here, in embryo,would be the principle antitheses of world history in the post-Reformation world. The proponents of the vertical order made a stand against the horizontalism of disorder. Religion confronted secularism. Order stood against disorder. Traditionalism met modernity and the future liberalism. The sacred and the profane collided.

The link between the sins of mankind and the wounds of Jesus was was familiar in England.**

‘It was for this reason that the cult of the Five Wounds in England repeatedly expressed itself in acts of charity as well as Masses and prayers, and especially by acts of charity in multiples of fives, bestowed on Fridays and above all on Good Friday. By such actual and symbolic charity one could turn the wounds of judgement into the Wounds of Mercy, forestalling the condemnation threatened in Matthew 25 by attending, while there was still time, to Christ’s wounded members, the poor.’***

Such charity towards the poor was linked intimately with the health of the body of Christ, the church and, therefore, the social organism as a whole.

‘Into what appears to be a simple effective devotion to the Passion, there was compressed the essence of the practical soteriology of late medieval religion. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the symbol of the Five Wounds should have been chosen by the Pilgrims of Grace as the emblem of their loyalty to the whole medieval Catholic system.’**

The religious houses that offered charitable care for the sick and poor were tending the wounds of Christ. The attack on the monasteries that prompted the `Pilgrimage of Grace was therefore an assault on the holistic belief system within which men led their lives. And to what end? Nothing less than mercantilism and commercial gain - the sin of avarice. The defences of Christendom had been well and truly breached. With Jericho-like vehemence, the objectors were swept out of the linear path of progress. Robert Aske the leader of the Pilgrimage was one of 216 who were brutally hung drawn and quartered or burned to death.

* See Marx and the Judaic metaphor in Thought Pieces.

**M. W. Bloomfield, The Seven Deadly Sins, 1952, pp. 167-8, 189, 203, 205, 224.

*** E. Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400 - 1580, Yale University Press, 2005.

John Dunn.

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