The Five Wounds

posted May 16, 2014, 3:16 AM by Professor Katz   [ updated May 16, 2014, 7:39 AM ]
Zinzendorf and his colleagues at the Herrnhut were very keen on the adoration of the 'Five Wounds'.  According to the Gospel of John (19:34), 'one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water'.  Which side is not indicated, but traditionally it is thought to be on the right.  This was the 'Fifth Wound'.  The story grew in the telling, and the soldier received a name, Longinus, and the spear became a holy relic (now to be found in various places, such as Rome and Vienna) called the 'Holy Lance' or the 'Spear of Destiny'.  In the classic film about the life of Jesus, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Longinus was played by the famous Western star John Wayne.

John 20:24-29 also tells the story of 'Doubting Thomas', who refused to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus until he stuck his finger into the 'Fifth Wound':

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

Caravaggio (1571-1610) has a great painting of this awkward moment:

The Cult of the Five Wounds became very important: even the Portuguese flag has five blue shields in the centre representing the Five Wounds (and the five Moorish kings defeated in the twelfth century):

The basis for the cult ultimately comes from the idea of stigmata (stigma = mark), the reproduction of the wounds of Christ on a person's body.  Paul invented the concept in his letter to the Galatians (6:17) when he said, 'I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus'.

St Francis of Assisi (1181/2-1226) was the first person who is said to have spontaneously developed stigmata on his body:

People are still claiming to develop stigmata.  Since St Francis, over 80-per cent of these people have been women, and (not surprisingly) almost all have been Roman Catholics: