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