This plaque can be seen on the floor of Bristol Cathedral. I snapped a photo to remind myself to look up what maundy was, because I know I’ve read about it before, but I wasn’t quite sure what it meant…

Maundy money is silver coinage that is distributed by the royals to deserving poor people on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter). It used to be done in conjuncting with the washing of feet, but that died out at some point … probably around the time we started understanding that athlete’s foot was a fungal infection!

The earliest recorded ceremony where money was given to the poor was by King John in 1210 in Yorkshire. See? He wasn’t such a bad guy. He donated food, clothing, and coinage to the citizens of Knaresborough. The monarch used to participate personally, at least until 1698. After that the distribution was done by the bishops until the ceremony was revived in the 20th century. (I guess those Victorians were too snooty!)

In the 20th century it has been the custom to give our silver pennies that equal the age of the monarch. Also, the participants are no longer chosen based on their level of poverty, but rather on their charity work. In 2008 Queen Elizabeth (or Lizzie, as Alex likes to call her), made history when she distributed Maundy money in Northern Ireland.

While you can find maundy coins for sale on ebay, they are considered valuable for sentimental reasons — if not fiscal. They are considered to be valid tender in all of Britain, but I doubt many people use them to pay for a pint!


Posted on 02/06/2010, in Exploring the UK, Silly British Things and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Rev Augusten Subhan

    I like this kind of service.

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