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Icon of the Crucifixion, showing all of the Five Holy Wounds (13th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai).

The Five Holy Wounds or Five Sacred Wounds of Christ were the five piercing wounds inflicted upon Jesus during His crucifixion:

  • Two of the wounds were through either his hands or his wrists, where nails were inserted to fix Jesus to the cross-beam of the cross on which he was crucified.
  • Two were through the feet where the nail(s)[1] passed through both to the vertical beam.[2]
  • The final wound was in the side of Jesus' chest, where, according to the New Testament, his body was pierced by a lance in order to be sure that he was dead. The Gospel of John states that blood and water poured out of this wound (John 19:34).

These wounds are not explicitly mentioned in any of the canonical Gospels until the Resurrection, although John the Evangelist states that no bones were broken. In the course of His Passion, Jesus suffered other wounds as well, such as those from the crown of thorns and from the flagellation.


Symbolical use

Flag of the eastern European nation of Georgia, a variant of the Jerusalem cross, which, according to some represents the five Holy Wounds.[3]

When consecrating an altar a number of Christian churches anoint it in five places, indicative of the Five Holy Wounds. Eastern Orthodox churches will sometimes have five domes on them, symbolizing the Five Holy Wounds, along with the alternate symbolism of Christ and the Four Evangelists.

The Crusades brought a renewed enthusiasm for religious devotion, especially for the Passion of Christ. St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Francis of Assisi in the 12th and 13th centuries encouraged devotions and practices in honor of the Five wounds of the Passion of Jesus: in his hands, feet and side. The Cross of Jerusalem, or “Crusaders’ Cross”, remembers the Five wounds through its five crosses. There were many medieval prayers honoring the Wounds. including some attributed to St. Clare of Assisi and St. Mechtilde. In the 14th century, the holy mystic St. Gertrude of Helfta had a vision that Christ sustained 5,466 wounds during the Passion. St. Bridget of Sweden popularized a custom to recite fifteen Paternosters each day (5,475 per year) in memory of the Sacred Wounds. There was a special Mass of the Five Wounds, known as the Golden Mass, which medieval tradition claimed was composed by St. John the Evangelist and revealed to Boniface II (532) in a vision.

The Holy Wounds have often been used as a symbol of Christianity. Participants in the Crusades would often wear the Jerusalem cross, an emblem representing the Holy Wounds; a version is still in use today in the flag of Georgia. The "Five Wounds" was the emblem of the "Pilgrimage of Grace", a northern English rebellion in response to Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Persons who have exhibited the Holy Wounds on their own bodies are called stigmatics, and are believed to enter into the Passion of Christ.

Holy Wound prayers

Part of a series of articles on
Roman Catholic
Devotions to Christ

Christ Hagia Sofia.jpg

Overview of Devotions
Holy Face
Sacred Heart
Divine Mercy
Eucharistic adoration
Holy Name
Acts of Reparation
Holy Wounds
Rosary of Holy Wounds
Stations of the Cross
Precious Blood
Infant of Prague

Prayers to Jesus
Anima ChristiShoulder WoundSacred Heart prayerYou are ChristVianney's prayerPerboyre's prayerMontfort's prayerCrucifix prayer

The Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers that focus on the Holy Wounds. An example is the Rosary of the Holy Wounds (also called the Chaplet of Holy Wounds), a rosary devotion directed to Jesus, rather than the Virgin Mary. Like some other rosary based prayers (such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy) it uses the usual rosary beads, but does not include the usual Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Rosary of the Holy Wounds was first introduced at the beginning of the 20th century by the Venerable Sister Mary Martha Chambon, a lay Roman Catholic Sister of the Monastery of the Visitation Order in Chambery, France as a focus on the Holy Wounds of Jesus.[4]

See also


  1. ^ In Eastern Christianity, the crucificion is traditionally depicted with Jesus' feet side by side, and a separate nail for each; in Western Christianity, the crucifix usually shows the two feet placed one above the other, and both pierced by a singl nail.
  2. ^ Of all the thousands crucified by the Romans, skeletal remains of only one have so far been discovered by archeologists, and that one showed a nail piercing through the heel.
  3. ^ Some interpret the five crosses as indicative of the Pentarchy, and some say that it originates from the crosses etched in the walls of the holy places by pilgrims.
  4. ^ Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X


Anne Cecil Kerr, 1937, Sister Mary Martha Chambon of the Visitation B. Herder Publishing.


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