The Tudor Society
  • The Feast of Saints Crispin and Crispinian

    In Tudor England, 25th October marked the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian who were brothers (some say twins) and who were martyrs of the Early Church, being beheaded on 25 October 285 or 286 during the reign of Diocletian. Following the victory of England over France on 25 October 1415, at the Battle of Agincourt, the day became a celebration of that event too. Celebrations included bonfires, revelry and the crowning of a King Crispin.

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  • New Feast Days e-book now available!

    The eighth book in our exclusive Tudor Society e-book series is now available and this one takes you through the calendar year one feast day at a time. Learn about how the religious calendar affected the daily lives of the Tudors in our Feast Days e-book.

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  • 22 July – Feast of St Mary Magdalene

    The Feast of St Mary Magdalene (or Magdalen), “apostle to the apostles” and the woman said to have witnessed Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, has been celebrated on 22 July since the 8th century.

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  • Happy St Swithin’s Day

    Happy St Swithin’s Day! Yes, today, 15th July, is the feast day of St Swithin or Swithun. Here is an extract from our feast day section…

    St Swithin’s Day commemorates the 9th century Saxon bishop, Swithin, who was chaplain to Egbert, King of Wessex, and the patron saint of Winchester. One miracle associated with him is that of him mending broken eggs. According to the story, an old lady’s eggs had been accidentally smashed by workmen working on a church. Swithin picked them up and as he did so they became whole eggs once again.

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  • November Feast Days

    All Saints Day was the celebrated on 1st November every year. It was a feast day in honour of all the saints and martyrs and was established because there were not enough days in the year to commemorate the lives of all the saints. Pope Urban IV said of it: “Any negligence, omission and irreverence committed in the celebration of the saints’ feasts throughout the year is to be atoned for by the faithful, and thus due honor may still be offered these saints.”

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  • October Feast Days

    In the medieval period, wakes were held to mark the end of summer and to dedicate the local church. The feasting and partying could go on for days, so, in 1532, Henry VIII stamped down on this practice and ordered that the first Sunday in October was the day for local parish churches to hold their dedication service.

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  • July Feast Days

    The Visitation of the Virgin was a feast day commemorating the pregnant Virgin Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. This visit was recorded in the Book of Luke and Luke records how the baby in Elizabeth’s womb “leaped” when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting and that “Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Ghost; so that she cried out with a loud voice, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

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  • June Feast Days

    This feast day commemorates the martyrdom of St Erasmus/St Elmo of Formia, Bishop of Formium in Italy. He was tortured and executed for being a Christian in the year 303. He is vemerated as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, saints whose intercession is believed to be particularly effective against disease.

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  • Summer Moveable Feast Days

    Rogationtide (from the Latin rogare: ‘to ask or beseech’) is the three days leading up to the Feast of the Ascension, which is celebrated forty days after Easter Sunday and which commemorates the Ascension of Christ into Heaven. It is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter because of what it says in Acts 1 verse 3:

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  • Easter

    How Easter was commemorated and celebrated in Tudor times.

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  • March Feast Days

    1st March is the feast day of St David (Dewi Sant), patron saint of Wales. According to Rhigyfarch’s Life of Saint David, David lived in the 6th century and founded religious centres including Glastonbury and Croyland. He then travelled to the Holy Land and was made archbishop at Jerusalem before travelling back to Wales and settling at Glyn Rhosyn (Rose Vale), or St David’s, in Pembrokeshire, Wales. There, he founded a monastery whose site is now marked by St David’s Cathedral.

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  • Lent

    Lent was, and is, the lead-up to Holy Week and it lasted six and a half weeks. In Tudor times, it was a period of fasting, a time when meat, eggs, cheese and sexual relations were forbidden. Prior to this fasting was a time of celebration, Shrovetide, which began on the seventh Sunday before Easter, a day known as Shrove Sunday. The word “Shrove” came from “shriving”, the confession of sins and the receiving of absolution for them.

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  • February Feast Days

    If you haven’t taken down your Christmas decorations yet then don’t worry, you’re just following the medieval and Tudor tradition of taking them down on Candlemas Eve. 1st February was the traditional day for removing the greenery, such as laurel, holly, ivy and rosemary, which had decorated homes over the Christmas period. However, Candlemas Eve really is your last chance to rid your home of decorations and please don’t leave them up otherwise you may just get invaded by goblins!

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  • 24 February – The Feast of St Matthias the Apostle

    In the medieval and Tudor era the feast of St Matthias the Apostle was celebrated on 24th February, whereas today it is celebrated on 14th May. I have read also that the feast was celebrated on 25th February in Leap Years so perhaps I ought to be actually posting this tomorrow!

    Matthias was not one of the original twelve apostles, he was chosen after the Ascension of Jesus by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot. Why was it important to replace Judas? The Catholic Online website explains: “Twelve was a very important number to the Chosen People: twelve was the number of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the new Israel was to come from the disciples of Jesus, a twelfth apostle was needed.” The Book of Acts explains what happened:

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  • Candlemas

    Candlemas, or the the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, is celebrated on 2nd February. It commemorates the purification (or churching, as medieval people would have seen it) of the Virgin Mary forty days after the birth of Jesus Christ, when it was traditional for the mother to make an offering or sacrifice according to Jewish law, and the presentation of the baby Jesus at the temple in Bethlehem.

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  • 11 November – Martinmas

    Happy Martinmas!

    Martinmas was the feast day of St Martin of Tours. One story about him tells of how, when he was about eighteen years of age, he cut his woollen cloak in half with his sword and gave half to a beggar to keep him warm. He then had a dream where he saw Christ surrounded by angels and wearing the half of the cloak that Martin had given to the beggar. Christ then turned to his angels and said, “Martin, as yet only a catechumen, has covered me with his cloak.” This dream caused Martin to be baptised and to give his life to God as a monk.

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  • Shrove Tuesday, Pancakes and Lent

    An article about Shrovetide, Lent and Tudor recipes for pancakes and fritters.

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  • The Feast of the Epiphany – 6th January

    An article about the feast day of Epiphany and how it was celebrated in Tudor times.

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