Easter is one of Europe’s most important Christian holidays – or “holy days” – of the calendar.
In the week before Easter Sunday, when the resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated, there are a variety of lesser-known holy days across Europe, including Maundy Thursday.
It was on this day that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, which is known as “the Last Supper”.
Some Christian churches observe a special Communion service on Maundy Thursday in memory of Jesus’ Last Supper.
Others observe a foot-washing ceremony that replicates Jesus’ own washing of his disciples’ feet. It was an act of humility and service and was meant to encourage others to follow his example.
The word Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command” and refers to the command Jesus gave to the disciples at the Last Suppe – that they should love and serve one another.
In the UK, the Queen hands out Maundy Money. It’s a tradition that goes back to the 13th century: each year the monarch visits a different cathedral to hand out a purse of coins that are minted specifically for the occasion. In total 91 men and 91 women received money from the Queen at Leicester Cathedral this year, as tradition dictates the number must equal her age.
In Spain, there are spectacular processions, especially in Seville, the centre of Spain’s Holy Week – or Semana Santa de Sevilla – which attracts thousands of faithful and tourists alike.
And in Italy, traditions vary from city to city. In Naples, Christians eat mussel soup whilst in some area of Tuscany a special bread called “pan di ramerino” is baked.
In Rome the “Vigil of Forty” is marked in the church of Santa Maria dell’Orto which counts down the 40 hours from when Christ was crucified on Thursday night to when he was resurrected on Sunday.
Up until last year the pope in Italy only ever used to wash men’s feet but he’s now responded to criticism and washes women’s feet too.
And across the country families visit the graves of their lost loved ones.
In France, believers volunteer to have their feet washed by priests, particularly in the holy city of Lourdes.
French priests also wash the feet of traditionally outcast members of society – but this time neither the old nor the poor, but the feet of inmates in prisons.